Despite a global decline in the level of Press Freedom the recently released 2009 study has found that Guyana has regained its free rating.
According to the conveners of the study, journalists faced an increasingly grim working environment in 2008, with global press freedom declining for a seventh straight year and deterioration occurring for the first time in every region
“The journalism profession today is up against the ropes and fighting to stay alive, as pressures from governments, other powerful actors and the global economic crisis take an enormous toll,” said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director.
“The press is democracy’s first defense and its vulnerability has enormous implications for democracy if journalists are not able to carry out their traditional watchdog role.”
The news comes on the heels of President Bharrat Jagdeo’s announcement that shortly the government will be tabling the Freedom of Information Bill.
The essence of the Freedom of Information Bill Act, according to the Commonwealth Parliament Association (CPA), is the empowerment of the populace to request any piece of information (with few exemptions, such as medical records) held by a public authority.
One such utilisation of the Act was cited by a renowned Trinidadian journalist, Sasha Mohammad, at a recent CPA workshop held for media operatives and Parliamentarians. According to Mohammad, one such incident was where there was a request for the salaries and monies paid to the Director of a bank.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds had told media operatives that the enactment of the FOIA required extensive preparatory work, such as the enhanced recording, storage and recovery of information required, among others.
Leader of the Alliance For Change, Raphael Trotman, who is the driving force behind the legislation, tabled a draft of the FOIA in 2006 but subsequently deferred in order to save it from being thrown out during its first reading.
He later clarified that the move was done to allow Government time for study and assessment of the administrative implications of the Bill, and to allow for broad-based consultations.
According to Trotman, a compromise with Government will be crucial if the Bill is to see the light of day.
During the debate on the 2007 Budget, Trotman had indicated that the passage of legislation to allow access to information is more important than personal endeavours, and indicated his willingness to step aside and allow the Government to take up the initiative.
The Bill proposed by Trotman is based on the Trinidad model, which has been criticized by the Government, saying that it had too many flaws.
According to Trotman, the idea of freedom of information must now be expanded from the political realm to that of a multi-stakeholder-driven agenda. He noted that everyone — not just politicians — must become involved in the process, and consensus must be arrived at.
Freedom of the Press 2009 identifies the greatest threats to independent media in 195 countries and territories around the world.
Released in advance of World Press Freedom Day, the report shows a seventh straight year of decline in global media freedom, with twice as many losses than gains. There are particularly worrisome trends in East Asia, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East and North Africa.
Given an economic climate that is certain to further strain media sustainability and diversity in rich and poor countries alike, pressures on media freedom are increasingly threatening the considerable gains of the past quarter century.
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