Georgetown, Guyana – (April 10, 2017) The Ministry of the Presidency refutes the misleading, false and malicious article, which was carried in the Monday, April 10, 2017 edition of the Guyana Times, headlined “Ministers can dictate to state media – President”, in which His Excellency President David Granger’s utterances were misrepresented.
Ms. Stacy Carmichael, Assistant Editor of NewsRoom on the Ministry of the Presidency’s weekly television programme ‘The Public Interest’, asked the President, “As an advocate for press freedom, do you have any concerns with any attempts by members of your Cabinet to interfere with the content of the State media?” The article claims that the President, in response, said that there is nothing wrong with a Government minister ‘dictating’ where articles should be placed in the State newspaper.
On the contrary, the President, in his response said, “If you are referring to a letter by the Minister of Communities, I do not regard it as interference. Apart from being a Minister, he is a private citizen. He expressed concerns. I do not think he attempted to coerce or to use his ministerial influence to change what I regard as the editorial right to publish an article or to publish news stories. I don’t think there was any interference at all. He wrote a letter just as anybody else could write a letter… I have seen worse letters by other people and the fact that it came from a minister does not constitute interference. If he had gone into the newsroom and order changes be made that is a different matter… But as far as the matter you are raising is concerned, the Minister did not decide what should or should not be published, he expressed an opinion on what had already been published.”
The question and response were related to a press release by the Guyana Press Association on April 4, 2017, which criticised a letter written by Mr. Ronald Bulkan, the Minister of Communities, and published in the Guyana Chronicle on April 3, 2017.
At no point during the recording of the programme did the President say that Ministers of Government can dictate to the State media entities. Further, the headline is at odds with the actual content of the article published in that newspaper since in the same report, the media house states in the fourth paragraph, “Asked to comment on this minister’s actions, President Granger said he does not view it as interference in the work of the media, but as the Minister giving his opinion on the matter, just as every citizen has a right to do”. This clearly shows that the headline was a deliberate attempt to mislead the Guyanese people.
The Ministry emphatically condemns the article and notes that media houses have an important responsibility to provide facts to the people of Guyana. This erroneous headline and lead were published despite the fact that the President’s comments was publicised via television, the internet and other communication platforms. The assertions carried therein have no basis in fact and the Ministry is, therefore, calling for an immediate retraction.
While the Government of Guyana promotes and stands solidly behind press freedom, the Ministry of the Presidency calls on the Guyana Times and all media houses to pay attention to the ethics and responsibilities that ought to be observed in the profession of Journalism. The Media must take its responsibility to provide accurate information to the members of the public seriously.
The Ministry of the Presidency uses this opportunity to reiterate the President’s commitment to the non-interference of the media by his administration. In April 2016, at a workshop hosted by the Guyana Press Association, the President said that citizens’ access to information is a democratic right and information is necessary for citizens’ informed participation in society.
“The Government of Guyana is committed to the promotion of a high degree of media professionalism. My administration will not undermine the professionalism of State media workers by subjecting them to political direction or interference with their work. My administration 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 President said.
He noted, at that forum, that restrictions on the flow of information deny citizens the opportunity to participate fully in decision-making and, thereby, impair democracy. The President said that his Government accepts that the State media have a duty to report accurately and without bias on all three arms of the State and that they are obliged to report the views of all parties and should serve the interests of all of the people of Guyana.