Monday, January 22, 2018

Guyana committed to media freedom

The following is a response from the Government Informa­tion Agency (GINA) of Guyana to the Express Editorial on May 11.

The government of Guya­na has always strived to ensure freedom of expression is secured, and this is reflected in the dismantling of the state monopoly on radio which it inherited from the previous regime.

The opening up of the broadcast spectrum, with the proliferation of over 20 private television stations across the country, as well as the addition of two daily newspapers, was all done under the current administration and is further testimony of freedom of expression in Guyana.

Over the past weeks, speculation and misinformation con­tinue to be published des­pite explanations by the government of Guyana and the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) detailing the process through which radio licences are issued.

This matter is now being represented by certain sections as the height of illegality and favouritism. But what are the facts?

Eleven radio broadcast licences were allocated in 2011 to applicants who are resident Guyanese nationals and who had formally indicated their interest in radio production.

With a manifesto commitment made to the people of Guyana to end the state monopoly of radio, many applications have been made and are currently being processed. The first 11 which were issued were granted to persons with the economic wherewithal to make use of the licences and thus bring an immediate end to the state monopoly.

This, however, has not been acknowledged nor has it been recognised by government detractors. The list of persons issued with licences includes persons who are unlikely to have any affiliation with the former president or loyalty to the ruling party.

The list of radio licence recipients reflects an even spread in both geographic (covering all three counties) and ethnic composition.

Guyana’s laws and sovereignty provide for the head of state to have the final say on the matter. The Post and Tele­graph Act of Guyana, under which the 11 licences were issued, confers on the president, who is the Minister of Infor­ma­tion, this authority.

The government of Guyana recognises freedom of expression as a fundamental right; however, the utterances of a few disgruntled applicants cannot and should not be used to dismiss the entire process as flawed or illegal.

Further, the government of Guyana has always been accessible and open to providing information on its policies and issues, and it is rather unfor­tunate that an esteemed publication like yours did not see it fit to seek the government’s input before publishing the editorial.

Government Information Agency (GINA)

Georgetown, Guyana