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Today is World Press Freedom Day. The press is pivotal to any and every society that believes in the values of democracy. At its most basic, according to the Oxford dictionary,democracy is “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.”
The role of the people is important to a functional and effective democracy, for in the absence of the people’s input, the people holding the government to account, and the government accepting its obligation to govern in the best interest of the people, democracy cannot survive. Press freedom is vital to the survival of democracy and even more so in Guyana that is a fledgling democracy.
The role of the press in societies such as ours cannot be underestimated or taken for granted. Ours is an ethnically diverse society that evolved from centuries ofethnic antagonism, tensionsand divisions. Said behaviour continue to impact the national political culture, which continues to prove challenging to Guyanese being able to work and aspire to the noble ideal of our national motto: “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”
The state of press freedom attracted scrutiny in the 2020 United States Human Rights Report on Guyana. Said report noted the media’s slant against opposition coverage. Conversely, the European Union in this year’s Press Freedom Day Message lauded the press for the role it played in Guyana’s 2020 Election. Readers will be the judge of the opposing recognition by these two important diplomatic institutions.
There are many in Guyana who feel alienated from having their voices heard the media and representation of the voices of their leaders in the media, unless through negative coverage. The United Nations’ (UN) theme this year on press freedom is “Information as a Public Good.” According to the UN this “serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind…’ and at the same time noting the theme’s ” urgent relevance to all countries across the world.”
Village Voice was established specifically to serve a public good. This came after critical review of the society vis-à-vis the media landscape, which has informed a felt need to ground this publication in the universal principle of free speech, recognising the need to balance that principle with social order and socio-economic inclusion. It is a right of the citizenry to not only have their voices heard but to be informed in a manner that leads to responsible social and political behaviour, which is another cornerstone of the paper’s mission. An informed citizenry is a vital ingredient in a democratic society.
Village Voice strives to also use its pages to agitate and advocate for the furtherance of foundational national and regional aspirations such as Ethnic Security, Gender Equity, Equal Opportunities, Equitable distribution of oil revenue, Social Upliftment, Territorial Integrity and Regional Integration. Village Voice represents a synthesis of resistance and progressive development that is shaped by national self-determination. We see these as vital to “Information as a Public Good.”
Happy Press Freedom Day!