Guyana’s regaining a free rating as it relates to press freedom is well deserved and is a rating that should not have been lost in the first place, according to General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party Donald Ramotar.
Ramotar said that the government was fully supportive of a free press and never sought to dictate or decide what should be published by media operatives in Guyana.
He said that this was a position no editor in Guyana could dispute.
Despite a global decline in the level of Press Freedom, a recently released 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 declining global press freedom 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 Act, according to the Commonwealth Parliamentary 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 Commonwealth Parliamentary Association workshop 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 Freedom of Information Act 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 Freedom of Information Act 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.
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.
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