PM highlights need for public information policy -says media is free and alive

Georgetown, GINA, May 18, 2016

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo believes that an information policy, defining what public information is, is now needed to give balanced media coverage without discrimination.

Reflecting on the media landscape one year after the APNU+AFC government came into office in May 2015; Prime Minister Nagamootoo told the Guyana Information Agency (GINA) that there needs to be responsible dissemination of information.

Moreover, the Prime Minister believes that a clear delimitation of public information, which an information policy will outline, is necessary. This means more access to information in the political and social sectors.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo who holds responsibility for public information pointed out that it is the job of the government to provide information, however it must be done in an inclusive manner.

“We need to look at a situation where you can give coverage in a balanced and fair way to political parties without discrimination. You must give them space because they’re a part of the system of governance,” he further explained.

The APNU+AFC government is an inclusive one based on tolerance, he stated. The Prime Minister said he has shared with President David Granger the need to have this policy drafted and enacted. The Prime Minister stressed that the responsibility to disseminate information is always a public responsibility, and that he was pleased with the diversity of the media ownership in the country.

“The media is free, the media is alive, and the media is diverse. It is plural and it’s a good combination of public and private ownership,” Nagamootoo said in his assessment of the media over the last year.

Addressing the controversy of his interference in the state newspaper, Nagamootoo clarified, “… the discourse that I was having with editors in planning the ministerial schedule, I have decided that I will no longer hold those discourses.”

Nagamootoo said that those allegations were false and were regurgitated without investigation or clarification. “If any journalist feels that the minister in charge of information or the prime minister speaking with that journalist is interference, I believe that we are looking at a very unfortunate situation.”

As a champion of press freedom, Nagamootoo believes it is important to inform the people of what the government is doing, using whatever limited resources available. Pointing to the state media as an example, Nagamootoo explained that GINA, “has been right-sized, not down- sized” from the large bureaucracy that it had inherited.

As for the state paper, The Guyana Chronicle, Nagamootoo said whether it remains state property was dependent on future policy decisions. “I’d rather like to see the state continue having a newspaper, but of course there is no guarantee that that’s what the state would want,” said Nagamootoo.

While it is government’s job to communicate to the rest of society through the state media, as well as the private media, Nagamootoo said that they must be held accountable. “If you’re using taxpayers’ money you have got to tell the people or the taxpayers what you’re doing with their money,” Nagamootoo said.

The challenge remains allowing journalists to work professionally without interference, Nagamootoo added. He stated that in mere days, he will commission radio stations in Mabaruma and Lethem. These will be used as platforms to inform and educate the people on what the APNU+AFC government is doing to make their lives better.

He stressed the importance of educating people on the use of the media. “I believe that we can all marshal our resources in the media to build confidence in our people, to be able to stir in them a passion for patriotism, love of our country,” Nagamootoo said.

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