The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) yesterday said that a Capitol News cameraman who was detained in the Kaieteur National Park (KNP) over the weekend had behaved in a “reckless and irresponsible” manner.
Questions have been raised about the grounds and authority on which the GDF detained cameraman, Rudy Morris, who was part of a team of journalists trying to determine where the boundaries of the KNP lay.
In a press release yesterday, the GDF said that after a thorough investigation into the allegations that were brought against them by Morris, “who attempted to breach the Operational Area” of the GDF at Muri Muri, KNP, the army is astonished that even after the man was cautioned about the nature of the operation “he took it upon himself to… attempt to breach our security Ranks in order to access GDF’s operational space.”
“The GDF wishes to inform the general public that an Operational Area, duly falls within the jurisdiction of the Operating Force. Illegal mining operations are not only a breach of the law, but can also attract violence among illegal miners, who are bent on breaking the law,” the release said, while pointing out that as such, access into the Operational Area is subject to scrutiny, to not only ensure that all persons are safe, but to enable the Operational Force to accurately distinguish between illegal miners and law abiding citizens.
“The GDF deems the conduct of the journalist as reckless, irresponsible and outright stupid. We therefore call on the press association to condemn these actions and encourage journalists to adhere to the rule of law and to respect our operation space,” the statement said.
The GDF statement still did not provide its authority for detaining Morris and a resident of the area.
When Morris was contacted by Stabroek News yesterday, he said he had no comment to make on the press release.
However, President of the Guyana Press Association Neil Marks said, “The GPA has exercised extreme patience in trying to resolve this matter amicably with the army. We are very disturbed that this statement was issued, especially with the sort of disrespectful innuendo levelled against Mr. Morris.”
He further pointed said that the Association has been carefully considering its position over the past few days and will highlight where it stands shortly.
Morris, along with Chenapau resident Anthony Melville were on Sunday afternoon detained at Muri Muri where they had travelled to get video footage of the Kaieteur National Park signboard – which is acknowledged by residents as the boundary of the Park. The signboard had become a matter of interest after Chenapau residents were detained by the authorities for alleged illegal mining in the KNP.
Stabroek News had reported that it was when they were returning to their boat that they were intercepted by armed soldiers. While the boat captain was allowed to leave, Morris and Melville were detained.
Questions were raised on how the men were allowed to enter the park and only detained when they were leaving. Morris was eventually released and flown back to the city.