While recognising the presence of constitutional provisions for free speech, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) highlighted the ‘fragility of independence’ in Guyana especially with regards to officials using laws to silence opposition journalists.
“Although Guyana’s constitution guarantees free speech and the right to information, officials often use various pieces of legislation – including defamation laws, which provide for fines and up to two years in jail – to silence opposition journalists,” the body said in its latest worldwide press freedom index.
Guyana was ranked 51 from a total of 180 countries – four places upwards than the 55 ranking in 2018.
Despite this improved ranking, however, RSF outlined that journalists are still subjected to harassment that takes the form of prosecutions, suspensions, and intimidation.
It pointed out that the Cybercrime Bill that was passed into law in July 2018 took into account amendments proposed by RSF regarding provisions that could have posed a threat to press freedom if used to penalise journalists for publishing reports deemed critical of the government or that are based on information from confidential sources.
However, press freedom body noted that the bill still remains imperfect.
Furthermore, it pointed out that the members of the media regulatory authority are appointed directly by the president. This, according to RSF, restricts the freedom of certain media outlets, which are denied licenses.
In fact, RSF referred to recent attempts to improve regulation of the broadcast industry, which it said involved no consultation with any local broadcasters.