Following today’s Cabinet meeting, the government issued what it calls a press advisory to say that it is suspending normal relations with Channel Five/Great Belize Productions. It cited four reasons for doing so including what it claimed was a failure to air Belmopan Weekly. For the record, that program was in fact aired by this station. The following statement is issued in respect of government’s actions:
“Channel Five will continue to cover the news in a fair and objective manner. It is our obligation to the citizens of Belize to provide viewers with the information you need about the activities of the government. It is not our job to cover the government in the way it chooses or in a manner that does not reflect well on the truth.
In the course of doing our job, we will continue to cover the government’s action and efforts. We will endeavor to tell their side of the story, so that you can make informed decisions about government actions. There are many pressing issues facing Belize, and every citizen needs to be engaged in the debate and to understand how we, as a community, will face these issues. We will report the news and we will continue to present our other programs with the same objectivity that we have had.
If the government can take this action, it will have a chilling effect on the coverage of the news. In a democracy, the press has an important role in telling its viewers the news. Media coverage improves transparency in government. This action will have the opposite impact. If the government can take this action against Channel 5, they can take action against any news organization or reporter. Of course, this will decrease transparency in government and is not a wise step for a healthy democracy.”