World Press Freedom Day: Media freedom allows for transparency in times of rapid growth – diplomats

Marking the observance of World Press Freedom Day 2023, the ABCE missions have posited that the freedom of the media to execute their duties is especially critical to maintaining transparency in an era when Guyana is scaling new heights in development.
The following Heads of Missions: Sarah-Ann Lynch of the US Embassy; Jane Miller, OBE, of the British High Commission; Mark Berman of the Canadian High Commission; and H Rene van Nes of the Delegation of the European Union, collaboratively observed World Press Freedom Day under the theme “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.”
A statement from the missions noted that the media plays a pivotal role in society, by disseminating facts for public consumption and helping citizens in Guyana stay informed, establish opinions, make informed choices, and participate meaningfully in society.
The availability of facts and information is fundamental to exercising such rights as access to health, education, justice, and to fighting against gender and economic inequalities. Moreover, the media’s charge: to responsibly deliver the facts fairly and without bias to all people, benefits all of society.
“In addition to providing access to facts and information, media freedom allows for transparency and accountability, important components for Guyana’s management of resources during a time of rapid growth. It is imperative that all stakeholders, including decisions-makers such as the Government and the Opposition, maintain a mutually respectful relationship with the media in its capacity as the fourth estate and as a vital part of democracy in action. This means granting the media access to public officials and to information should be the norm,” the diplomats have penned.
The missive added that media operatives should not face abuse, threats, or intimidation in the execution of their duties.
“Media workers should not be restricted, nor have to work under unnecessary duress or risk to their safety, in order to have access to information. They should not face abuse, threats, intimidation, or personal attacks in the execution of their duties, nor should they be expected to align with any specific idea, person, entity or political party, whether directly or anonymously.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s decision to proclaim the International Day for Press Freedom, which the statement said brings a point of reflection on the state of media freedom in Guyana after 30 years.
“As we reflect on this year’s theme, we recognise and acknowledge that media freedom is deeply imbedded within the freedom of expression and all other human rights.”
Additionally, the diplomats held the view that requests for public information should be honoured. The 2013 Access to Information Act should be effectively implemented to empower the media to do their job.
“The media’s role is to provide objective and impartial reporting, which is essential to maintaining a healthy democracy and ensuring that all voices are heard. Therefore, it is important that employees of the media are protected, and are able to carry out their duties without fear.”
In reflecting on 30 years of advocacy for media freedom, the ABCE officials recognised that work remains to be done. Together, there must be continued efforts to develop the role that the media plays in promoting democracy, transparency and accountability, and work collectively to understand the expectations of all stakeholders.
“We therefore call on the media, Government, Opposition, and all stakeholders to recognise the roles and responsibilities of the media, and its benefits to the people of Guyana. We thank all journalists for their hard work, sacrifice and service to society, and we urge all stakeholders to continue supporting media freedom and promoting a culture of open and honest communication in Guyana,” the statement concluded.

Tackling misinformation
The Association of Caribbean Media Workers also shared a statement on the occasion, acknowledging that it provides an opportunity to focus on the immense importance and connection of freedom of expression to all other human rights.
“In the absence of freedom of expression, more often than not through the media, the public cannot be properly educated and informed about the other human rights to which they are entitled,” the ACM inked.
Therefore, the Association has urged Caribbean decision-makers to utilise the rapid advances in social media as a mass communication tool to facilitate the two-way flow of information on all public interest subjects that touch and concern the many facets of the other human rights.
It contended, “The ACM takes a dim view of the increasing practice of decision-makers, especially those in the political sphere, who have resorted to one-way communication through tweets and Facebook video and text posts. This approach appears to be a clear avoidance of scrutiny at press conferences and interviews. We urge an end to such a practice that robs the public of details that will potentially allow them to make rational decisions. These deficiencies in freedom of expression are leading to dysfunctional societies.”
With the proliferation of social media and all its attendant ills of misinformation and disinformation, the ACM’s unwavering position is that there is invaluable space for journalism as a means of freedom of expression.
“Professionally practised to ensure accuracy and fairness, journalism is the only conduit to cultivate the public as change agents for transparency, good governance and accountability.” (G12)