The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) yesterday tore into a decision by the state-owned Guyana Chronicle to discontinue columns by David Hinds and Lincoln Lewis and called on President David Granger to clarify his government’s position on what the party deemed “censorship and victimisation”.
The Chronicle’s Editor-in-Chief Nigel Williams in letters to Hinds and Lewis last week notified that their columns would come to an end as part of the newspaper’s rebranding and the need for specialist columns.
Condemnation of the decision from Hinds, Lewis and others led to emergency meetings of the Chronicle board on Saturday and on Tuesday. However despite promises, the Chronicle is still to issue a statement on Tuesday’s meeting which was to take a final position on the matter.
In a statement yesterday, the WPA, a member of the main governing coalition member, APNU, said it viewed with “great concern and dismay” the recent decision to terminate the contractual agreement with the two columnists.
It said that it saw this development as a blow to democracy, press freedom and the independence of the state-owned media.
“The silencing of democratic voices in the ranks of the masses – given the history of dictatorial governance by previous administrations, only served to undermine economic and social development and is a blatant assault on the struggle to promote justice. We condemn this retrogressive step and view it as an abuse of the authority vested in those who are mandated to oversee the running of this important state asset and an assault on the fundamental rights of these two citizens to have and to express views of their own on matters of national importance”, the WPA said.
It stated that the Chronicle is the property of the Guyanese people and not the property of public bureaucrats, politicians or political parties.
“While it is expected as a state media to promote government policies and developmental initiatives, it is equally expected to carry unhindered the views of the people within the confines of the law whether or not those views are diametrically opposed to those of the government of the day. The state media is also expected to express the uncensored views of the political opposition”, the WPA asserted.
It called on President Granger as Head of State, Leader of the APNU, and Leader of the APNU +AFC coalition and government to clarify his and his government’s stance on this recent act of “censorship and victimization”. The WPA said that a refusal to correct this wrong will in time prove to be regrettable.
“We are steadfast in our judgement that the vast majority of the Guyanese people has a keen interest in the President’s position – whatever that is. It will bring clarity on this issue, end speculation and aid the political culture”, the WPA posited.
It declared “The intellectual authors of this retrogressive, senseless, and political dogmatism whether they reside in the cabinet, government or outside of those institutions, have exposed the APNU+ AFC coalition to public ridicule of the worst kind and have given the PPP/C ammunition to aid its campaign of painting the government as being dictatorial and of betraying commitments to the people made in its election manifesto”.
The party said that “It is wary of the ease in which tin gods in high and low places who wield political power, seem to be unconcerned about the effects of their actions on matters pertaining to the WPA, its leadership, its members and its political interests. The frequency in which disrespect and unwarranted refusal to have prior consultation with the party leadership on matters germane to the party and to the nation, have now become a way of life which the WPA is no longer prepared to ignore. For the record, WPA wishes to make it clear that it will respond appropriately to this and any other acts of disrespect”.
The WPA said it stands in solidarity with Hinds and condemns this act of political repression against him.
“We view the attack on Hinds as an attack on the WPA and its constituency in the country. For the WPA the right to free political expression is sacrosanct to the party’s political culture and will not be traded for political expediency or accommodation. We have never in the history of our party subjected any leader, activist or member who in their individual capacity choose to comment on matters of public interest, to censorship”, the party contended.
The party said that the endorsement of this “act of political repression by the Board of the Guyana Chronicle demonstrates the fragility of our democracy. The inability of the board to appreciate its role and recognize its essential mandate as the custodians of a state paper which should ensure that the views of all are permitted, that freedom of the press should be sacrosanct and allow such a decision to stand does not bode well for the future of this paper and what we can in future expect from the board as it stands”, the WPA argued.