Information Ministry calls for greater responsibility in media

Guyana Chronicle
May 4, 2001

THE Ministry of Information has noted with concern the violation of the freedom of expression clause by members of the media. The Ministry expressed the hope that media practitioners would use the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, observed yesterday, to reflect on their mode of reporting.

In a press statement, the Ministry said recently there has been a spate of anti-journalistic behaviour by some elements of the broadcasting community.

"The Ministry of Information strongly condemns that type of reporting and hope in the future, all journalists will be more responsible and conscious of their unique position of being intermediary points on all current affairs."

The Ministry of Information believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental right recognised in the American declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Resolution 59 (1) of the United Nations General Assembly; Resolution 104 adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights as well as other international documents and national constitutions.

"We should recognise that the member states of the Organisation of American States are subject to the legal framework established by the principles of Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Guyana is a member state of the OAS.

"The Ministry of Information believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental and inalienable right of all persons. Also, it is a vital requirement for the very survival of a democratic society, especially a country such as Guyana, which has a fledging democracy.

"We would reiterate that intimidation of and/or threats, including murder and kidnapping to media personnel, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of persons and limit freedom of expression.

"We expect that the relevant authorities will have to prevent and investigate such occurrences and to punish their perpetrators.

"Any direct or indirect pressures brought to bear upon journalists or other social communicators to suppress the dissemination of information are contrary to freedom of expression."

The Ministry of Information recommended that the following steps be taken to ensure that journalism in Guyana continues to operate freely and in consideration of all parties involved.

** A semi-autonomous Broadcasting Authority be established and ALL journalist operating within Guyana be registered with this body. Special Media Passes can be distributed from here, with the cooperation of the Police Department.

** A Complaints and Monitoring Unit be established within the Broadcasting Authority to deal with reports from journalists on any form of discrimination or prevention of the exercise of their rights. This Unit will work in conjunction with the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Human Rights Association.

The Broadcasting Authority should have full authority to launch investigations and file criminal charges against anyone who violates the freedom of expression clause. Every person will be treated equally without racial, gender or political prejudice.

The Ministry also recognises that journalists violate Article 146 of the Guyana Constitution (Freedom of Expression) and the Monitoring Unit will deal with persons who violate the act by propagating news items that threaten: National defence; public safety; public order; morality and health; the reputation, rights and freedom of other persons; private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings; information received in confidence; the authority of the courts; technical administration and operation of telephones, telegraphs, post, wireless, broadcasting of television; fairness and balance in the dissemination of information to the public; harm a corporate body established on behalf of the Government of Guyana.