The AFC yesterday slammed calls by the ruling party for government regulation of the media, saying that it is a duty for the media profession itself.
“AFC is opposed to the state or politicians legally regulating or controlling the press. Though we admit that standards ought to be raised… this should to be done by self-regulation” AFC executive Moses Nagamootoo yesterday told a press conference.
The veteran journalist/politician explained that by self-regulation his party expects journalists and their professional associations to adopt high standards of ethics, and have greater regard for truth, verifiable facts, balance and fairness in their work. “Several of our journalists, mostly in the free and independent media, have already distinguished themselves for adopting these higher standards,” he stated.
Nagamootoo, who was a former Information Minister in the PPP/C administration, said that his party was not opposed to the independent monitoring of the press. He made reference to examples of these, citing local and international organisations such as the Guyana Human Rights Association, the Electoral Assistance Bureau, the Guyana Elections Commission Media Monitoring Unit and agencies such as Reporters Without Borders, the US-based Freedom House and the Inter-American Commission on Press Freedom.
He blasted government, accusing the PPP/Civic-led administration of double-standards by pushing for media regulation while abusing the state-owned media to its advantage.
“Whilst the state is terrified of the few non-government media, it encourages the vulgarity of its own media for being wholly partisan, propagandistic and pathetic, and for disregarding wholly standards of objectivity, balance and fairness,” he said.
“AFC believes that our media ought to continue the search by self-regulation of credible standards of journalistic ethics and responsibility. In this regard, the government has a legal duty to protect press freedom, not to undermine it… we do not need to regulate the press, to make laws that could further fetter it, that could muzzle it, and turn it into a toothless poodle,” he further said.
With new features of mass media, such as blogging, Nagamootoo said his party welcomed a full debate on the role of Guyana’s mass media, which includes not only newspapers, radio and television but cable, satellite, internet and even mobile phone communication. However, he said this must not give the state an excuse to draft regulations for the press, or to dub perceived adversaries “meddlers” or to gag non-government critics.
“Historically the press has been the fourth estate, and in some societies the last bastion of a free society. We need an inquisitive press, not state inquisition against the press,” he stressed.