Guyana: US Ambassador chides Gov’t for Media Censorship

Media houses radio licences…Unthinkable applications ignored for decades – US Ambassador

MAY 4, 2014 | BY  By Latoya Giles 
US Ambassador D. Brent Hardt

US Ambassador D. Brent Hardt

United States Ambassador, D. Brent Hardt has chided the Government of Guyana over what he calls the “censorship of the media”. The ambassador at a reception on Friday evening to celebrate World Press Freedom Day criticized how Government has failed to properly address several pressing media problems.

“Two years later it’s certainly disappointing that radio in Guyana still falls short of offering an open public square for debate and discussion” Hardt told invitees.According to Ambassador Hardt, back in 2012 he had expressed his surprise at knowing that Guyana alone had complete state monopoly of the radio. He said that in other countries with their ubiquitous “call in shows” was a vital public forum, but in Guyana there is no such counterpart. 

He stressed that the International Press Institute (IPI) report made it clear when they said that “attempts to diversify the sector have been consistently stonewalled…a number of independent media outlets…have had their broadcast applications denied or ignored in some cases for more than 20 years”.

According to the Ambassador “it’s unthinkable that the license applications for certain media have been delayed or ignored for nearly two decades”. Ambassador Hardt made a further call for the newly constituted Broadcast Authority to immediately undertake a speedy and fair review of any outstanding license applications and to ensure that all applicants are subjected to independent review.
Hardt said that IPI also raised an issue he has long found perplexing, which is the use of the term “opposition media” to describe any media institution that is not controlled by the government.

“This is indeed a demeaning term that fails to do justice to the vital role that an independent media must play in a modern, democratic society” the Ambassador posited.

He noted that the use of the appellation was also inaccurate. “Anyone who reads or watches independent media in Guyana will see that there are letters to the editor supportive of the government, columns that advocate government positions, and generally balanced reporting on actions of government” Hardt noted.

By contrast, he said that in the state-owned and state-run media, which should hold itself up to an even higher standard of balance by virtue of being funded by taxpayers, one hardly ever sees a letter to the editor or a column supportive of the opposition or critical of the government.
“In fact, the public reads about instructions being passed by the government to state-run television criticizing staff for airing statements by an opposition party directly after the government’s position was presented, and indicating that such presentations were only to be aired late at night when viewership was lowest” the ambassador posited.

The journalists who received awards

The journalists who received awards

“You have a job to sift through information put forward quite eagerly but whose primary purpose may be to distract or divert your focus” Ambassador Hardt noted.Further the ambassador said that such censorship is not only wrong, but completely unnecessary for a government that is more than capable of defending and articulating its views on a fair playing field of public opinion.
“As the distinguished U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once observed…Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself” the ambassador said. The ambassador in delivering his speech urged local journalists to pry out information from people who may not want the information out.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Anil Nandlall however had a different view of things. The Attorney General said that there must be a comparison between what happens now and what occurred before 1992.

The AG said that there was no attempt by the administration to influence what those media houses publish.

Also on Friday evening the US Embassy here in Georgetown gave out several awards to local journalists who have done exceptional work throughout the years.
The awardees included Kaieteur News Editor in Chief Adam Harris and reporters Latoya Giles, Zena Henry along with Veteran Journalist Enrico Woolford (Capital News), Dennis Chabrol (Demerara Waves), Royston Drakes (Capital News), Gordon Moseley (News source), Mark Murray (Capital News), Nazima Raghubir (Insight Guyana Magazine), Vanessa Narine (The Guyana Chronicle) , Oluatoyin Alleyne (Stabroek News), Gaulbert Sutherland (Stabroek News) and Anand Persaud, the Editor in Chief of Stabroek News

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  • guyaneseonline  On 05/05/2014 at 2:42 am

    The importance of the media to transparency
    Yesterday World Press Freedom Day was celebrated and while we strive to ever increase the tenets of press freedom, with that freedom comes the undeniable responsibility of the press, which is to objectively report on events and occurrences unfolding. In essence, the press has the responsibility to ensure that the truth is made manifest to the masses.
    In order for that truth to be manifested accurately there is greater need for more openness from the government as it pertains to the accessibility of information. What we find happening within Guyana’s context is that the information that government gives out is limited to what government wants to be shared as opposed to everything being in the open so that accurate and accountable reporting/journalism can be provided to the population.

  • N.Augustus  On 05/06/2014 at 7:00 pm

    The government is paranoid about giving out news before they feel it is safe to do so, and only as much as they feel is necessary. Part of this fear is based on how the opposition will react. Many times they feed suspicions by their late, and limited disclosures and failure to provide timely updates. They are their worst enemy. Overall leadership is too loose and lack oversight and accountability. Project management is poor. The opposition unfortunately simply opposes and never really proposes anything to alter, improve or add new policies. Guyanese are robbed of more progress due to poor politics.

  • gigi  On 05/07/2014 at 2:13 pm

    This reads like the US media. Does the opposition have a voice? NO! The democrats and the republicans are the two players on the chessboard, controlled and manipulated by those who own the game. And those who own it also own the media so what you hear is controlled and manipulated propaganda designed to make the masses feel like they live in a democracy and have a voice.

    Al Jazeera is a prime example of independent media whose reporting has been seriously curtailed when it began operating in the US. I no longer watch Al Jazeera.

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