Govt responds to Reporters Without Borders report

first_imgThe Government is claiming that the 2017 World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is “deeply flawed”.This index, which puts Guyana three places down from the position it occupied last year, ranks Guyana at number 60 on this year’s Index; and according to its commentary on press freedom in the country: “Journalists are subjected to harassment that takes the form of prosecutions, suspensions and intimidation.”It has been outlined that although the Guyana Constitution guarantees free speech and the right to information, officials often use its defamation laws — which provide for fines and up to two years in jail — to silence opposition journalists. RSF also pointed out that members of the media regulatory authority are appointed directly by the President, and this restricts the freedom of certain media outlets, which are denied licences.Government has, in a statement issued on Friday, expressed concern over the circulation of what it considers a “deeply flawed and undated report” on Guyana’s ranking.Government’s statement has also noted that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who has portfolio responsibility for information, is unaware that the RSF has conducted any survey or inquiry into press freedom in Guyana, and questions whether its findings were based on credible sources.This current administration has said that the local media has greater latitude and freedom to operate without interference from Government intrusion, control or direction than what currently obtains.The administration has pointed to two recent cases of unjust suspension of state media employees which were robustly condemned by senior Government officials, and has said that both matters were addressed to the satisfaction of the affected employees.The statement was referring to the last year suspension of National Communications Network (NCN) Sport Editor Jocelle Archibald-Hawke and the removal of journalist Natasha Smith from anchoring duties because of her pregnancy.The Coalition Government has, moreover, said that it recently approved the appointment of an “independent and professional” Board of Directors for the NCN, and is currently reviewing the Board of Directors of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL) with a view to reconstituting that board as well.While President Granger has on many occasions declared his support for press freedom in the local fraternity, he has come under heavy criticism for holding only one press conference since his assumption to office almost two years ago. His last press conference was held back in October 2015.The Head of State had also defended this record back in January by stating that in the absence of a presidential press conference, the purpose of which is to meet with the Head of State to find out his thoughts on a variety of issues, he has been making himself available to local reporters on ‘The Public Interest’ programme. This is a pre-recorded “weekly” programme that lasts for only 30 minutes, during which questions are posed to the President by the moderator, someone out of the Presidential Media team. The last programme was recorded since April 6.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has called out President Granger for not facing the press. He has said the Head of State is hiding from criticism against his government.“I have a major issue about the President and his accountability to the nation,” Jagdeo, a former President himself, had stated back in January. “He hides behind these pre-packaged interviews,” the Opposition Leader said, while calling on the Guyanese press corps to boycott the programme.“He has not held press conferences because I think he doesn’t want to be accountable on several matters that were happening in his government. So he packages these things and he deals with safe subjects in a safe environment,” Jagdeo posited.last_img read more