Freedom of the Press 2008 - Guyana
|Publication Date||29 April 2008|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Guyana, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f60828.html [accessed 22 September 2014]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 6 (of 30)
Political Environment: 14 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 11 (of 30)
Total Score: 31 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Status change explanation: Guyana declined from Free to Partly Free due to a government decision to withdraw advertisements from Stabroek News, one of the country's leading newspapers, apparently in response to critical reporting, as well as an attack at gunpoint against another leading paper.
The government's decision to withdraw advertisements from Stabroek News cast a shadow over the media scene in 2007. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and media are generally allowed to operate without interference. However, promised legislation to facilitate the distribution of private radio licenses has not yet been introduced, and although an opposition member of parliament has tabled a Freedom of Information bill, it is apparently unlikely to be passed into law.
Another troubling act occurred in May, when staff at the country's other main newspaper, Kaieteur News, were left traumatized after two men entered the editorial department and held several reporters at gunpoint. The intruders demanded to see the newspaper's publisher, Glenn Lall, and when told that he was out of the country, fled on foot. The government said that it viewed the attack as another attempt to undermine press freedom in Guyana. According to the government statement, the gunmen were part of a criminal network seeking to spread panic and fear in society at large.
The government maintains a long-established radio monopoly and operates the country's only 2 radio stations. There are 23 television stations, 6 national newspapers (including the government-owned daily, the Chronicle), and 6 periodicals. Following the decision by the Government Information Agency (GINA) to withdraw advertisements from the Stabroek News, commencing in December 2006, a number of government agencies and state corporations followed suit, based on directives from the government. GINA cited the newspaper's declining circulation as the reason for the decision, but most observers felt the action was punishment for Stabroek News' critical reporting of the government and the People's Progressive Party during the 2006 election campaign. There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet, which is accessed by 20 percent of the population.