Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Guyana’s media situation remained relatively open this year, despite several violent incidents involving media workers. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the media are generally allowed to operate without interference. Legislation to facilitate the distribution of private radio licenses has been promised but has not yet been introduced. Private media outlets experience great difficulty in persuading government officials to comment on issues, and instead of being granted interviews, journalists are referred to press releases issued by the Government Information Agency. There is no freedom of information legislation. An electoral campaign that culminated in the August reelection of the People’s Progressive Party, led by President Bharrat Jagdeo, was free of the violence that has marred previous elections. Credit for this may in part be due to the creation and reasonably successful application of a code of conduct for media organizations covering the election campaign. The code was agreed upon by 14 media organizations at the start of the year.
However, two serious and deadly attacks on media workers during the year cast a cloud over the media scene. On January 30, Ronald Waddell, the 57-year-old host of a recently canceled television program, was shot dead at his home in a suburb of the capital, Georgetown. An active member of the opposition People’s National Congress and a well-known campaigner for the rights of Guyanese of African descent, Waddell often criticized the government on his talk show on HBTV Channel 9. On August 8, five pressroom workers at the Kaieteur News printing plant were shot dead by a group of unidentified masked men. Following the arrests of some of the alleged attackers, it was suggested that the aim was to take guns from the plant’s security guards. While the killings seem not to have been related to the newspaper’s work, it created an environment of fear among media workers in the country. Representatives of media organizations called for heightened security for the press.
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, all of which are allowed to operate freely. According to the U.S. State Department, in the month before elections, the government-run television and radio stations tripled the cost for political advertisements, effectively denying access to less well-funded opposition parties. There are 160,000 internet users in Guyana (18 percent of the population), and the government does not place any restrictions on its access.