WPA calls on President to clarify Govt’s position on recent “act of censorship and victimization”

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The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) – a party within the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) in a press statement moments ago, roasted the Government over the recent decision to terminate the contractual agreement with columnists, Dr. David Hinds (an Executive Member of the WPA) and Trade Unionist, Mr. Lincoln Lewis, authors of the popular columns, “Hinds Sight” and “Eye on Guyana with Lincoln Lewis” respectively.

WPA Executive Member Dr David Hinds                             Trade Unionist Lincoln Lewis

The party stated clearly that this development is viewed as a blow to democracy, press freedom and the independence of the state-owned media. “The silencing of democratic voices in the ranks of the masses – given the history of dictatorial governance by previous administrations, only served to undermine economic and social development and is a blatant assault on the struggle to promote justice. We condemn this retrogressive step and view it as an abuse of the authority vested in those who are mandated to oversee the running of this important state asset and an assault on the fundamental rights of these two citizens to have and to express views of their own on matters of national importance,” the party said.

Both Hinds and Lewis received letters recently informing them that their services with the State newspaper had been terminated with their final working day being March 12, 2018. Both letters were signed by the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief, Nigel Williams.

Of recent, both columnists had been very critical of the APNU/AFC Administration and this is suspected to have been the main reason behind their termination.

“Guyana Chronicle is the property of the Guyanese People and not the property of public bureaucrats, politicians or political parties. While it is expected as a state media to promote government policies and developmental initiatives, it is equally expected to carry unhindered the views of the people within the confines of the law whether or not those views are diametrically opposed to those of the government of the day. The state media is also expected to express the uncensored views of the political opposition”, the statement added.

The party has issued a call for President David Granger as Head of State, Leader of the APNU, and Leader of the APNU +AFC Government to clarify his and his government’s position on “this recent act of censorship and victimization”.

 

Following is the full statement issued by the party:

The WPA views with great concern and dismay the recent decision of the Guyana Chronicle Newspaper Editorial Management to terminate the contractual agreement with columnists, WPA Executive member, Dr. David Hinds and Trade Unionist, Mr. Lincoln Lewis, authors of the popular columns, ” Hinds Sight” and ” Eye on Guyana with Lincoln Lewis”.

WPA sees this development as a blow to democracy, press freedom and the independence of the state-owned media. The silencing of democratic voices in the ranks of the masses – given the history of dictatorial governance by previous administrations, only served to undermine economic and social development and is a blatant assault on the struggle to promote justice. We condemn this retrogressive step and view it as an abuse of the authority vested in those who are mandated to oversee the running of this important state asset and an assault on the fundamental rights of these two citizens to have and to express views of their own on matters of national importance.

Guyana Chronicle is the property of the Guyanese People and not the property of public bureaucrats, politicians or political parties. While it is expected as a state media to promote government policies and developmental initiatives, it is equally expected to carry unhindered the views of the people within the confines of the law whether or not those views are diametrically opposed to those of the government of the day. The state media is also expected to express the uncensored views of the political opposition.

The intellectual authors of this retrogressive, senseless, and political dogmatism whether they reside in the cabinet, government or outside of those institutions, have exposed the APNU+ AFC coalition to public ridicule of the worst kind and have given the PPP/C ammunition to aid its campaign of painting the government as being dictatorial and of betraying commitments to the people made in its election manifesto.

Reflecting on this unfortunate development, the WPA is wary of the ease in which tin gods in high and low places who wield political power, seem to be unconcerned about the effects of their actions on matters pertaining to the WPA, its leadership, its members and its political interests. The frequency in which disrespect and unwarranted refusal to have prior consultation with the party leadership on matters germane to the party and to the nation, have now become a way of life which the WPA is no longer prepared to ignore. For the record, WPA wishes to make it clear that it will respond appropriately to this and any other acts of disrespect.

WPA stands in solidarity with Dr. David Hinds and condemns this act of political repression against him. We view the attack on Hinds as an attack on the WPA and its constituency in the country. For the WPA the right to free political expression is sacrosanct to the party’s political culture and will not be traded for political expediency or accommodation. We have never in the history of our party subjected any leader, activist or member who in their individual capacity choose to comment on matters of public interest, to censorship.

Today we wish to place in the public record that our reading of Dr. Hinds column, “Hinds Sight” has in no way violated any democratic principles, law or the party’s political culture and thinking. Most of his observations, criticisms, and analyses are more often a reflection of our collective thinking. To the extent there are differences they reside only in the areas of tactics and timing.

It is our considered opinion that Dr. Hinds, given his decades of struggle and more importantly, his support and activism that contributed to the political fortunes of the APNU in the 2011 general and regional elections and the subsequent formation of the APNU+AFC coalition and victory in the 2015 elections, has the right and duty to engage in critical support of the present government, even if his utterances are uncomfortable to some in the government.

The endorsement of this act of political repression by the Board of the Guyana Chronicle demonstrates the fragility of our democracy. The inability of the board to appreciate its role and recognize its essential mandate as the custodians of a state paper which should ensure that the views of all are permitted, that freedom of the press should be sacrosanct and allow such a decision to stand does not bode well for the future of this paper and what we can in future expect from the board as it stands.

WPA calls on President David Granger as Head of State, Leader of the APNU, and Leader of the APNU +AFC coalition and government to clarify his and his government’s position on this recent act of censorship and victimization. A refusal to correct this wrong will in time prove to be regrettable. We are steadfast in our judgment that the vast majority of the Guyanese people has a keen interest in the President’s position – whatever that is. It will bring clarity on this issue, end speculation and aid the political culture.

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