As Guyana joins the world in celebrating World Press Freedom Day, the Guyana Press Association (GPA) is encouraging media workers to be fair and fearless in reporting the truth.
The GPA, in a statement to mark the occasion, expressed that Guyana is fraught with limitations in the expression of press freedom. Guyana does not have a constitutional clause that recognises the freedom of the press, it said.
The GPA called on all elected representatives to ensure that press freedom is secured as is a right protected under the Constitution. It noted that the freedom to discuss and disseminate information was the right of every citizen and falls within freedom of expression which is protected under Constitution.
The GPA stated that commemorating World Press Freedom Day and abiding by the “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in all Media” theme was a necessary step toward dismantling the unclear limitations that currently deny expression in Guyana.
The GPA noted that the most recent challenge to the freedom of the press was the ongoing battle against the “unfair and surreptitious distribution of radio frequencies” by former president Bharrat Jagdeo and the National Frequency Management Unit.
The GPA acknowledged that the judiciary now holds the responsibility in this matter. The governing press body stated that it hoped “justice and fair play will prevail and issues surrounding these assignments would be thoroughly investigated and corrected under the terms and conditions that created the moratorium and within the Constitution and Laws of Guyana.”
The association stated that amidst these derelictions there is grave concern that Guyana’s press freedom can be greatly suppressed and it is the responsibility of journalists to express their views without bias.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has stated that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right “enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” He professed that freedom of expression is “at the cornerstone of good governance, sustainable development and lasting peace and security,” according to a press release.
While the legislation is there it is the enforcement that is often time overlooked, the release said, noting that the attacks on journalists every day across the world amounted to censorship of the truth.
The Secretary General said he was concerned that perpetrators censoring press freedom and attacking journalists often escape punishment.
Over the past decade the UN reported that over 600 journalists were killed and hundreds more detained by governments attempting to limit the flow of information. Ban called these events “an assault on the right of all people to the truth.”
The UN has established a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity aiming to raise awareness and support free and safe working environments for journalist globally. The UNSG stated that “when it is safe to speak, the whole word benefits,” which is a reason to remain vigilant in the exploration of the truth.