Journalists are without media passes for this year according to the Guyana Press Association because it has had no formal response from the Department of Public Information (DPI) to its proposals for the GPA to issue the passes, GPA President Nazima Raghubir said on Monday.
In a response on Tuesday, DPI Director Imran Khan said that Government “has removed itself completely from accrediting media and this responsibility falls entirely with the Guyana Press Association.”
However, since a January 30th meeting, the government is still to formally sanction a plan for the GPA to produce these passes.
At the January 30, 2018 meeting at which the GPA executive met him, Khan said, the GPA agreed to take full responsibility for media accreditation, and the DPI offered only to cover productions costs.
In a statement issued on Monday lamenting that passes were not yet available, Raghubir said the GPA raised its concerns at the January meeting about the misuse of media passes over the years by the politically headed organisation and Khan in turn said the DPI was not “comfortable” with issuing media passes.
The GPA, Raghubir said, believes that it should issue media passes to bona fide media members and following the January meeting, submitted an agreement for the “Accreditation of Media Workers” on February 11 to the government to guide the process.
There was no formal response to the submission, she said, and in seeking to ascertain the status of the agreement several GPA executives were told that it was with then Acting Prime Minister, Vice President Carl Greenidge then later, with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.
A written inquiry sent on April 16 this year to the government about the agreement went unanswered.
The GPA, she said, was ready to discuss the issue with clear commitments to respecting time and the journalism profession.
In a response on Tuesday, the DPI quoted Khan as saying that while the GPA raised the delay of the 2018 media accreditation at the Meeting, “contrary to the GPA statement,” it was Khan who raised the issue of the GPA being the rightful agency to issues the accreditation.
Unlike what was previously done, Khan said, the government was not the proper authority to issue media passes nor was “the Coalition Government” so inclined. He said, it was the GPA’s responsibility to ensure that its members are duly accredited by whatever mechanism it chooses.
Aware of the GPA’s financial position and the substantial cost to produce the accreditation passes, Khan, offered to the GPA, Government’s assistance to cover the cost of the production of the cards only.
He proposed that the GPA decide on its process for approving applications, to send a list with the relevant information for DPI to produce the cards and to return them to the GPA for distribution, or, for GPA to produce the cards at a provider of their choice and the DPI covers the cost, providing that quotations are submitted beforehand and approved.
DPI said, Khan noted that the proposal involved the use of Government funds and it required ministerial sanction. At the time of the discussion, Nagamootooo, the subject minister, was overseas and Greenidge who was acting in his stead reviewed the GPA document belatedly because of his work schedule. By this time, the DPI said, Nagamootoo had resumed his substantive duties. It is the ministerial sanction which is still to be provided more than three months after the January meeting.
During the meeting with the GPA, Khan had suggested that for events such as post-
Cabinet press conferences and other high level events, a special level of accreditation should be done for select members of the media who cover these events.
This was strongly resisted by the GPA executives present who were adamant that all media personnel, with their standard media accreditation, should be permitted to cover all events regardless of the nature or stature.
Khan agreed to this on two conditions which the GPA agreed to, the DPI said. The conditions were that the GPA sends a list to DPI of all media accredited by the GPA so that DPI can distribute to all ministries and government offices, that all media accredited by the GPA receive clearance by the Guyana Police Force, a system which is currently in place.
The DPI said that “absolutely nothing is preventing the GPA from producing 2018 accreditation for media personnel” and that media workers are not being prevented from executing their functions as the media has been advised that until the new accreditations are produced the 2017 accreditation will be accepted for entry to all government media events.
The decision of government to remove itself from the media accreditation process the DPI said, is at the core of freedom of the press and one of the most significant measures taken in recent history to strengthen press freedom in Guyana.
And in a response to Khan on Tuesday, Raghubir said, “We feel that the statement made by Mr Khan and DPI does not reflect the accuracy of the January 30th, 2018 meeting and we are prepared to address the statement once we have met as an executive.”