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PNCR commits to “non-interference in the independent media”, wants State- private media partnership to deliver “public information”

FLASH BACK: PNCR Chairman, Basil Williams addressing the event held at his party’s Congress Place headquarters, Sophia.

The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) on Wednesday categorically stated that “there is no good reason” for State interference in the work of the privately-owned independent media.

“The PNCR is committed also to non-interference in the independent media. Independent media act as watchdogs of the Government. They promote transparency by ensuring that information is provided to the public on the work of the Government,” the party said, adding that “they are a source of valuable feedback on the effectiveness of the efforts of the Government.

Four days after the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) issued a statement saying its party leader, David Granger had “highlighted the daily challenges faced by the Coalition from sections of the media,” that party retracted the entire statement on the outcome of its General Council meeting that had also touched on several other areas.

Instead, the PNCR in an extensive statement publicly committed itself not to interfere in the work of the private media. Among the critics of the previous statement were Political Science Professor, David Hinds, and the Editors-in-Chief of the privately-owned Stabroek News and Kaieteur News newspapers.

The PNCR singled out the importance of the private media in promoting transparency by ensuring that  that information is provided to the public on the work of the Government. “The relationship between the State and the private-media must be seen as a partnership in providing a public good, that is, public information for the citizens of this country,” that party, the largest and most influential in the governing coalition, said in the statement that was dedicated solely to media relations.

Government has already established several small radio stations across the country and has amended the Broadcasting Act that allows government daily air-time on privately owned radio and television stations for public service programmes.

The PNCR said after examining the transcripts of Granger’s address to General Council on Saturday May 19, 2018, it was found that remarks attributed to him were taken out of context, resulting in the decision to retract the entire press statement issued on May 20, 2018

The PNCR said the President has long been and will continue to be a strong advocate and defender of the freedom of information that is guaranteed under Article 146 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

Article 146 guarantees the fundamental right to “freedom of expression” including the right to receive and impart ideas, barring limits imposed by other laws, defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.

The PNCR assured that its leaders and members of the PNCR strongly believe that free access to information is an inalienable right of every citizen.

“It is an indispensable condition of democratic society. Citizens’ access to information is a democratic right and information is necessary for citizens’ informed participation in society. Restrictions in the flow of information deny citizens the opportunity to participate fully in decision-making and, thereby impair democracy,” the party added.

The PNCR added that independence of thought must be preserved, professionalism must be promoted and the Constitution of Guyana must be upheld.

A number of Guyana’s media houses are known mouth-pieces for political parties. They include Freedom Radio for the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the PNCR-associated HBTV Channel 9, and the PPP-aligned Guyana Times, Citizens Reporter and INews. While in government, the PPP had labelled the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News “opposition media”.