Guyana’s government should ensure that journalists are able to do their jobs free from harassment

Last Updated on Wednesday, 3 May 2023, 9:23 by Denis Chabrol

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the harassment and intimidation of journalists in Guyana through online targeting and disrespect from the administration.

It further calls on the Guyanese government to reform its practices to give proper access to public information. Members of the press should be respected and free from scare tactics in their jobs, especially in a signatory country of the Media Freedom Coalition.

Journalists in Guyana continue to encounter pushback from the government and supporters of the ruling party in their work. This includes exclusion from routine press briefings from the administration and intimidation tactics. On 31 March, President Irfaan Ali gave a press conference where journalists were forced to sit among the public and verbally intimidated while asking questions, particularly when bringing up certain topics like oil. The crowd was largely composed of vocal supporters of Ali’s party and the meeting was more like a rally.

After the event, Kaieteur News journalist Davina Bagot was harassed on the Facebook page “Live in Guyana” in what the Guyana Press Association calls an “attack.” They argue this behavior could eventually lead to physical aggression against Bagot or other media workers.

“Whether directly attacking the media or encouraging supporters to do so with a wink and a nod, President Ali is putting journalists at risk for simply doing their jobs. President Ali’s administration must take action to ensure all journalists are safe to do their jobs. This includes holding to account party supporters who intimidate members of the press,” Clayton Weimers Executive Director, RSF US Bureau

The Guyana Chronicle, which is owned by the government, has published several articles critical of the press association, especially its president Nazima Raghubir.

This exemplifies a larger issue that the government controls many of the media outlets in the small country and tries to silence those who criticize the administration. There have been no cabinet press briefings since August 2020.

Guyana is one of 51 members of the Media Freedom Coalition, which advocates for media freedom and the protection of journalists.

Guyana is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index.