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On May 3, countries around the world observed World Press Freedom Day which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. This proclamation made good on a recommendation by UNESCO in the form of the Windhoek Declaration of 1991 which affirmed pluralism within media landscapes and independence of the media. These developments came at a critical juncture in the contemporary world. It was a time when journalists and the media fraternity throughout the world had cause to fear that the media were under attack from governments.
The response of UNESCO was to link freedom of expression and freedom of the media to justice and peace in the world. Indeed, as UNESCO puts it, “3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.”
Village Voice News throws its full support behind this universal declaration particularly at a time of political uncertainty in Guyana. Many on one side of the political divide have bemoaned what they contend is a monopoly of the media by the other side in our highly plural country. This we think is a matter of concern. The USA State Department had cause to observe this media imbalance in its 2021 Country Report.
This year’s theme is “Information as a public good”. It is a timely reminder that information flows are not political favors, but a public good that is at the center of individual freedoms and collective rights. It is not a gift from governments but a gift to the people in pursuit of their freedom.
The relationship between government and media in post-colonial Guyana, has been a rocky one at best. Successive governments have been unable to strike the balance between freedom of expression in the media and government’s role of maintain order. That is why Village Voice News welcomes the government’s assurance that it is committed to Freedom of expression and Freedom of the media.
The following words by the Minister of Information are significant: “As a nation committed to a free press and a signatory to the declarations of Chapultepec and Windhoek, the Government of Guyana remains therefore unequivocally committed to upholding the constitutional rights of its citizens to freedom of information as a public good, and will continue to actively pursue, develop, consider and support reasonable measures that protect and guarantee access to, or the dissemination of information in all forms and across all media platforms.”
Village Voice News reads those words literally and within the context of past vulnerabilities of the media to the heavy hand of government. We assume that they have meaning beyond lip service. We anticipate that government will be fair in its distribution of advertisements. We assume that government would not use its might to cut off information flows from any segment of the society. We assume that the State Media shall be evenhanded in their treatment of sister media entities politically and commercially. These and other principles we expect the government to honour. We hold them to their word.