Gov’t has ‘absolutely no intention’ to spy on journalists, citizens – Pres. Ali


Calling it an invention of problems that don’t exist, President Irfaan Ali on Tuesday said there is no intention by his government to use modern technology such as spyware to monitor media operatives or any citizen for that matter.

He was at the time responding to comments by President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA) Nazima Raghubir who on Monday called on the government to assure journalists and media houses that it does not and will not utilise spyware such as Pegasus.

The comment was repeated when the GPA Head addressed the government organised World Press Freedom Day Conference and Symposium at the Arthur Chung Conference Center, Liliendaal on Tuesday.

“This government has no intention whatsoever, we have not even contemplated to use spyware on anyone. It is furthest from my thought.

“I have not even imagined it so let me say it wouldn’t happen, at least under this government. IT will never happen,” Dr. Ali said to a room filled with media workers.

He went further to say that wherever such acts exist, they should be rooted out because no government must spy on their population, especially since Guyana was a democratic and free society.

President Dr Irfaan Ali addressing media workers at the World Press Freedom Day conference (Photo: News Room/March 3, 2022)

“Please don’t let the imaginative thought process enter mainstream communication where it doesn’t exist,” Dr. Ali added.

He further noted that as the head of the executive branch of government, he believes in full press freedom and was not afraid of criticism.

“Let me tell you, my favourite part of the newspaper is the cartoons. I love it, even when I am the subject of it.”

To this end, the President used the occasion to recommit to a restart of Post Cabinet press briefings but said that even in its absence, the government remains accessible to the press.

“This government and president are the most accessible, anytime, and that will continue that way,” he added.

Dr. Ali said that the message of government and its relationship with the media must always be a balancing one and reasoned that while press freedom is to be accorded, there are limitations to that freedom.

“… and that is why there are laws, freedom exists within those confines.”

media workers at the World Press Freedom Day conference (Photo: News Room/May 3, 2022)

The Head of State also used the occasion to address the country’s highly contentious and criticized Cybercrime legislation.

He reminded that the Cybercrime Act was passed in 2018 under the previous APNU+AFC administration.

Dr. Ali reminded that at the time the PPP/C opposition spoke out against parts of the Bill and even proposed some amendments all of which were disregarded by the Coalition Government.

Speaking more to the theme of the 2022 World Press Freedom Day: “Journalism under digital siege,” Dr. Ali said the new digital age allows the world to see everything as it is said and done.

This, he said proposes dangers, but it also brings with it challenges.

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