Guyana Working On Improving Press Freedom Rating.

Photo: Pixabay. Press Freedom Day brings attention to how governments relate to the press.
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The Guyana Government has announced that it believes in  press freedom and access to information and is taking part in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Press Freedom Day Conference in Chile as part of an effort to show that  it is serious about this  commitment.

This looks like a welcome response to recent reports that according to the Reporters Without Borders index, Guyana has dropped in its world ranking for freedom of the press from 60th last year to 77th in 2024.

The principal cause of this drop seems to be related to an article about a press conference  given by Presdent Ali which claimed that “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.”

On the positive side, no journalists were killed or imprisoned in Guyana in 2024.

The three-day conference in Chile commenced on Friday, May 3, on World Press Freedom Day, which was observed under the theme, ‘A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the Environmental Crisis’.

Gordon U. French, Public Affairs Liaison in the Department of Information and Public Affairs, Office of the Prime Minister, joined over 2,500 media workers, policymakers, environmental activists, and non-governmental organisations to discuss the current challenges and opportunities in environmental reporting and the broader media landscape.

“The discussions at the conference are crucial, occurring at a critical juncture amidst our Guyana’s global leadership and commitment to environmental protection and climate change mitigation. Therefore, it is essential that we remain vigilant and informed about the latest developments, focusing on emerging global issues to help strengthen the foundation of fundamental rights and freedoms already enshrined in Guyana,” French stated.

Based on initial discussions at the conference, there are increasing calls for Governments to collaborate with journalists and other stakeholders to develop public policies to combat misinformation and fake news campaigns, not only regarding the environment but especially as the world prepares for a ‘super election year’ in 2024.

“In Guyana, we are increasingly recognising the global conversation surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its implications for the proliferation of fake news. This presents challenges for our journalists and government as we endeavour to safeguard our environment and the rights of citizens. President Dr. Irfaan Ali has taken decisive steps to lead local discussions on AI, representing a commitment to confront the challenges of AI and fake news head-on.”

There is a global push for ensuring that the governance of digital platforms foster the transparency of technology companies, their accountability, due diligence, user empowerment, and content moderation and curation based on international human rights’ standards, as indicated in UNESCO’s Guidelines for the governance of digital platforms.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also addressed the conference remotely.

Sources: Reporters Without Borders, Guyana Public Information Service.

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