Gov’t intolerant of opposing views

– US State Department report
Government has demonstrated diminishing tolerance for publicly expressed opposing views, the 2008 US State Department Human Rights report has said.
It noted that though the law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice, it nevertheless was increasingly intolerant of publicly expressed views or opinions different from its own.

It also noted that government’s limits on licensing of new radio stations, continues to constrain the broadcast media.
The report referred to the September 2007 government decision to cease placement of government advertising in Stabroek News and this newspaper’s public campaign against it which ended in April last year and the subsequent return of government ads.

Meanwhile, the report said that the independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction and international media operated freely. It said the partially government-owned daily newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle, which typically displayed a pro-government slant, covered a broad spectrum of political and nongovernmental groups. The independent daily newspapers Stabroek News, Kaieteur News, and Guyana Times freely reported and editorialized on the government’s policies and actions.
The four-month suspension of the broadcast licence of CNS Channel 6 beginning on April 11 last year, “as punishment for airing a vague threat” made by a caller against President Bharrat Jagdeo during a live call-in show was also cited. And the report said the suspension was enforced despite the host’s immediate condemnation of the caller’s remarks as the government asserted that the station had violated the terms of its licence by inciting violence.

Then in July, the report said, the government banned well-known local television journalist, Gordon Moseley, from the Office of the President and the presidential residence for allegedly making “disparaging and disrespectful” remarks towards the President in a letter published in two local newspapers. The letter objected to the president’s public repudiation of a report Moseley had aired; neither the report nor the letter was reported to contain anything offensive, the State Department said.

With regard to radio stations, the report noted that government owned the only radio station in the country, broadcasting with multiple frequencies and that radio is the only means of reaching the entire country. In December, it noted too, the acting chief justice ruled that the government had acted unconstitutionally by refusing to respond to multiple television station licence applications for Region 10, affirming that this “infringed on the applicants’ constitutional right to freedom of expression.”

Private interests and the political opposition continued to criticize the government for its failure to approve similarly longstanding requests for private radio frequency authorizations, the State Department said.

However, there were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e mail.

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