Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as GUY, Guyana is a democracy where fair elections are regularly held and results are respected. Violence and discrimination against indigenous peoples are problems. Freedom of the press and opinion is guaranteed in the constitution but is not always fully respected.

In international rankings of the strength of democratic institutions and of political and civil rights, Guyana ranks in an intermediate layer, at about the same level as Brazil.

In Transparency International’s (TI) index of corruption in the world’s countries, Guyana is ranked 85 out of 180 countries and territories. It is worse than neighboring Suriname (in place 70) but better than most countries in South America (the whole list is here). Guaya has improved its performance in TI’s index significantly since 2012, partly because efforts are being made to hold former political leaders accountable for misuse of state assets.

Freedom of expression and media

The government controls the country’s only radio station, and opposition politicians have complained about not getting enough space in the media.

Prosecution can provide fines and imprisonment for up to two years, which contributes to self-censorship among journalists. Harassment also occurs. The leadership of the authority that oversees the media is appointed by the president, which means that malicious media organizations can be denied a license.

In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Guyana is ranked 49 out of 180 countries (see full list here). Freedom House describes the media climate as “partly free”, the middle of three categories.

After the government newspaper Guyana Chronicle published government-critical articles, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo in 2015 ordered that all headlines in the newspaper be approved by his office before being published.

The media climate was frosty also under President Bharrat Jagdeo (1999–2011), who was sensitive to criticism and sometimes expressed disdain for journalists. A TV reporter was banned from the president’s office because of reports that annoyed the president, and for a year and a half the state ran an advertising boycott against a privately owned newspaper that criticized Jagdeo.

Guyana’s privately owned television stations can usually scrutinize the government without any consequences, but sometimes the authorities intervene. It happens that state officials sue reporters for slander to silence criticism.

Judicial system and legal security

The judiciary is weak, legal processes are slow, and the conditions in prisons are poor. The police are accused of corruption and brutality. Crime has become such a serious problem that it is considered to hamper the entire country’s stability and development. One reason for the increase in crime is said to be that the US expels convicted Guyanans after serving a sentence. In 2004, allegations came that the government had direct links to a death patrol that would have been behind a series of extrajudicial executions of suspected criminals.

The death penalty is sentenced but no executions have been carried out since 1997.

Guyana Crime Rate & Statistics

Guyana Democracy and Rights
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