Press freedom is the people’s way to rein in their politicians

Dear Editor,
Has the PPP/C just shot itself in the foot by suspending CNS Channel Six? Couldn’t the President have imposed a fine? Buxton’s Mr Eusi Kwayana living in California rushes in proclaiming “we frighten”! (SN, October 5). Of seeing people criticising the PPP/C government on TV?  When has any politician been afraid to speak their mind?

Bro Kwayana never misses a chance to stir up a little mischief. Just because he said to give President Jagdeo a chance he behaves as if his stamp of approval is more significant than that of the Guyanese electorate.  He takes licence to speak for all Guyana. As if any President, of any party of any country does not deserve a chance when they win an election.  Now he wants PPP/C presidential candidate Mr Donald Ramotar to tell “Bharat Putin” why he is wrong.  What would a Ramotar criticism of the PPP/C President achieve and is it the best solution? Mr Kwayana’s intervention seems more motivated to engineer a little divide and rule within the PPP.

The CNS suspension is not a done deal. Whoever (PPP/C, APNU or AFC) wins the presidency will be fully empowered to review the suspension decision. Mr Ramotar currently has no mandate or authority to countermand anyone in the PPP/C government. The future Guyanese president, whoever it is, can act decisively, since the electorate will have empowered him to govern. And since the ordinary Guyanese has more weight, both my letter, bloggers and Mr Kwayana’s letter are severe reprimands to our leaders to behave themselves. Freedom of the press must not be compromised, moreso during election time.

So even though the election of the PPP/C in 1992 had heralded an active return to freedom of the press it must not be compromised hereafter.  President Hoyte must be credited for pioneering its return. Our enjoyment of our press freedom where we boldly criticise and poke good-natured fun at each other is very obvious, as we are also free not to acknowledge the refreshing progress which Guyana has been witnessing. Guyanese rarely forget, and rightly so, to lament the rise in crime. But crime has always been with us and will never fully go away.  Building Guyana is laborious and costly. It is a welcome task for a new Guyana with a free press.

Yet press freedom has occasionally been derailed during President Jagdeo’s watch, especially after Mr Robert Persaud’s promotion from the President‘s press liaison officer to his current ministry. The President has not been getting good advice.

So while the PPP/C has a very good record of adherence to democratic practices, it is hurting itself on the eve of an election by suspending CNS’s licence. Even if in the West politicians feud with the media, that is their norm. Any skirmish with the press is likely to tarnish a political party’s image, especially in struggling Guyana.

While the previous denial of state advertising revenue to Stabroek News has been resolved it was not one of the wisest PPP/C pursuits as the late Guyanese matriarch Mrs Janet Jagan had cause to publicly point out. [Ed note: State advertising has again been suspended to Stabroek News, this time together with the other independently owned papers.] Neither does the current brouhaha with Kaieteur News reflect positively on the PPP/C’s legacy.

In a democracy, political parties serve us, and not the other way round. Press freedom is the people’s way to rein in their politicians mindful that they themselves are not the elected representatives of a free people.
Yours faithfully,
Sultan Mohamed

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