Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Press Freedom? #2

The Guyana Press Association (GPA) notes with deep concern the apparent decision by the Guyana Government to withdraw most advertisements from the privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper.

While, in the context of the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) Declaration of Chapultepec; it appears that move could be regarded as a dastardly attack on press freedom; the GPA stands ready to play a meaningful role in having the matter resolved.

The GPA is always mindful of such instances whenever they emerge, having regard to pre-1992 when the then administration had severely curtailed access not only to the State Media by its critics but suffocated the importation of newsprint by newspapers that it had considered virtually enemies of the State.

In this context, we trust that there is no relationship between the alleged decision to cease the placement of most government advertisements in Stabroek News and criticisms by the Head of State, President Bharrat Jagdeo and the governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) in recent months.

The GPA states unequivocally that the occupants of the corridors of power and national decision-making are often under greater scrutiny by the media--the Fourth Estate-- but should not be punished or appear to be punished for it.

Again, having regard to our not so recent past as a country, the GPA is remains vigilant against cowardly acts by governments that seek to use State resources as a weapon against media that are critical of its policies, views and decisions on matters.

The GPA trusts that, as a signatory to the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) Declaration of Chapultepec, the government would take every necessary step to revisit its position.

The GPA has already informed the umbrella Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM). The Stabroek News' statement and the GPA's initial reaction have been also communicated to Reporters San Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders). An executive meeting of the association would be held very shortly to decide on additional courses of action.

The GPA restates its position that it is prepared to play any meaningful role in acquiring a greater understanding of the government's decision while at the same time ensuring that the viability of the media is preserved and media-freedom is a hall-mark of our evolving democracy.