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GPA bemoans Gov’t’s “rigid” posture against media, on World Press Freedom Day

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The Guyana Press Association (GPA) bemoans the Government of Guyana’s increasingly rigid posture against sections of the media and their organisation, by refusing to concretely address several concerns.

In its message to mark World Press Freedom Day, the GPA raised concerns about government/political interference in the work of taxpayers’ funded State-owned media, and the failure to engage Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo who is responsible for the information sector.

The GPA said it had sought an audience with the Prime Minister on various issues but to no avail.

It condemned the moves by some government ministers to steer the editorial content of the state media, and highlighted the continued presence of Mr. Imran Khan, the Director of Public Information, as the chairman of the Board of the Chronicle newspapers. Khan’s position on the Board of Directors it said, “sends a message of direct state control and runs counter to public statements by the President that his executive will not undermine the professionalism of the state media.”

Further, the Press Association disclosed that it had received complaints from two of its members that they have been accosted by presidential public affairs personnel and pulled away although President, David Granger had expressed a willingness to speak.

These actions taken together clearly send a damning message to the regional and international media community.

It notes that this could very well be the continuation of “media repression by successive political directorates under the guise of repeated public declarations in support of press freedom.”

The GPA, therefore, calls on the Government of Guyana to immediately desist from carrying out certain actions that are inimical to press freedom and instead to subscribe to its promise of breaking with the past.

Noting that openness is key and critical to sustainability, good governance, transparency and accountability, the body is also calling on the Head of State to hold periodic press conferences of no less than one hour to best serve accountability to the Guyanese people. Additionally, it urges that media personnel be advised in advance of his overseas engagements.

Addressing the media, the GPA encourages fact-checking and verification of relevant and authentic sources material before dissemination on social media. “If information is replicated without the necessary due diligence, this can essentially result in the peddling of information that may be detrimental and call into question the role of the press,” it noted.

It urges that editors and reporters alike take advantage of the various training activities and professional development events afforded by the oversight body.

The GPA has over the past months held a number of training programmes, with support from organisations, including the Canadian High Commission, the Pan American Health Organisation, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Scotia Bank.

In the upcoming months, several workshops are planned as we seek to improve the capacity of local journalists to cover key issues in a professional and well-informed manner.

The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.”

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