By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – It was a tit for tat on Friday night (May 02) between United States Ambassador to Guyana, Brent Hardt and Guyana’s Attorney General, Anil Nandall in relation to the issue of media censorship.
At a reception held by Ambassador Hardt in honour of World Press Freedom Day, he pointed out several issues being faced by the Guyanese media and which were highlighted by the International Press Institute (IPI).
These include broadcasting licenses, abuse of state media, the distribution of state advertising, direct intimidation of the press, freedom of information and media standards.
The US Ambassador said the use of the term ‘Opposition Media’ to describe any media institution that is not controlled by the government is demeaning and fails to do justice to the vital role that an independent media must play in a modern, democratic society.
““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.
“By contrast, in the state-owned and state-run media, which should hold itself up to an even higher standard of balance by virtue of its 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,” the US Ambassador said.
He further noted, “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.”
According to the US Ambassador, “Such censorship is not only wrong, but completely unnecessary for a government that is more capable of defending and articulating its views on a fair playing field of public opinion.”
Meanwhile, in his attempt to rebut the US Ambassador, Guyana’s Attorney General, Anil Nandlall went into the archives and reminded the gathering of journalists, politicians and diplomats of press suppression during the time of the People’s National Congress government. He said the state of the press must be assessed now when compared to previous years.
“There is no attempt by the administration to influence what those media houses publish. There is no attempt to censor journalists,” Nandlall declared. This was met by much laughter and heckling from sections of the gathering.
The Attorney General is of the view that there is abuse of press freedom in Guyana and called for it to be regulated.
World Press Freedom Day is being observed today, May 3 under the theme “Media Freedom for a Better Future: Shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”
A number of journalists were awarded last night by the US Ambassador for their excellent work in bringing important stories to the light.