Western Diplomats urge focus on accountability, criticism of gov’t in Press Freedom Day message
Heads of Mission of the ABC-EU countries in Guyana have called attention to the media’s role in ensuring accountability as the world observes Press Freedom Day and said with the large revenue stream entering government coffers, it has never been more important.
In a joint statement on Sunday, United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch; the British High Commissioner, Jane Miller; Canadian High Commissioner, Mark Berman, and Head of the Delegation of the European Union, Dr. Fernando Ponz Cantó said the press must ensure government does as it has promised to use those resources for a development agenda that cuts across all regions and races.
“There is also a larger principle at stake that strong democracies require free information flow in the public marketplace of opinions and ideas. As inconvenient as criticism can be to government officials and other leaders, it is an essential part of the democratic cacophony,” the statement noted.
The diplomats believe that World Press Freedom Day provides the opportunity to acknowledge the significant work of journalists, remind ourselves of the fundamental principles of press freedom and assess the current state of press freedom locally and around the world.
“We recognise that media freedom is a cornerstone of democratic societies and essential to the protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and universal values anchored in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.”
They observed that journalists have been at the forefront in times of danger in Guyana, including during incidents such as fires and flooding and they tell the heart-breaking stories of women and families who have been victims of domestic violence.
“Members of the media are a key source of information on national topics such as Guyana’s rapid development, while at the same time holding government, opposition, parliamentarians and others accountable.
For example, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the media has helped to keep societies updated about developments with the pandemic, to learn of best practices to prevent the spread of the virus and importantly to counter false or misleading information.”
To this end, the Western Diplomats posited that with matters of life and the quality of life in the balance, journalists must be allowed to report facts freely without attacks and acts of intimidation or censorship at a time where the capacity to speak truth is constantly under attack around the world.
“Media freedom also requires freedom from all forms of undue influence or pressure, be it political, economic or financial, so that they can report independently and objectively,” the statement added.
They warned that abuse and harassment of journalists while doing their jobs must also not be tolerated.
Female journalists and members of the LGBTQ community are often victims of inappropriate comments and sexual harassment which the Heads of Missions said must end.