Director of the Government Information Agency (GINA), Neaz Subhan, says that the actions of the combined opposition to reduce the budget of the agency to one dollar have put the staff at risk of losing their jobs and he described this “as a wanton attack on press freedom.”
According to Subhan, in a message for World Press Freedom Day, the observance here in Guyana “would surely be shrouded in gloom” following the actions of the combined opposition to reduce the budget of GINA to one dollar.
According to the GINA director, “their intent to close the agency is clear given its effectiveness in executing its mandate.”
He said further that “the reality is that all the staff stand to lose their jobs thereby jeopardizing their ability to meet financial and family commitments,” and “to force such an imposition on hard-working media professionals can only be seen as a wanton attack on press freedom.”
Subhan contended that the cut of GINA’s budgetary allocation in Parliament “has placed Guyana in a unique position where it is the Opposition that has engineered action to deprive the professional media staff of their jobs and not the government.”
Meanwhile, slamming the Guyana Press Association (GPA), the GINA director asserted that what is even more alarming is that the GPA has been noticeably silent on this issue.
“It is unfortunate,” Subhan said, “that the GPA which is never hesitant to make its voice heard on other related issues, has not seen the possible disbandment of GINA and the displacement of its staff as an attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
Subhan observed that “since 1992 freedom of expression has been restored, catalyzing the rapid and continuous expansion of the private media.”
He contended also that the “free and openly extreme, critical analyses of the government,” which he said was “rabid and seditious at times,” are indicative of the freedoms the press now enjoy.
Over the last two decades, Subhan added, no media house was closed in exercising its right to such freedom and no media operative incarcerated in executing his/her constitutional right to freedom of expression.
“This clearly has to be an (enviable) position by media operatives who are deprived of such rights and freedoms in some countries where those governments are guilty of media oppression,” Subhan said.
And given this year’s theme of “Media freedom helping to transform societies” to mark this day, Subhan maintained that “it is unfortunate that the information that GINA disseminates which does exactly that, is now under threat from reaching those who have a right to be informed.”
But he expressed the hope that better sense would prevail and whatever leverage the Opposition has in the National Assembly would be used meaningfully and not to cause hardships.
On this day, Subhan said, almost exclusively, the suppression of freedom of expression through authoritative means by some governments is brought into focus. There is a plethora of examples in some countries of media entities being threatened or closed, media operatives being incarcerated with some, unfortunately, losing their lives in the cause.
Reflecting on the local scene, Subhan said that in the past some private media workers here felt the brunt of such oppression with one principal operative being killed under questionable circumstances.
Also during that time, one entity was repeatedly deprived of its right to import related printing materials in an effort to silence it, Subhan added.