In the face of widespread criticism of the state-owned Guyana National Newspapers Limited’s (GNNL’s) decision to discontinue publication of articles from columnists Dr. David Hinds and Trade Unionist Lincoln Lewis, Government Spokesperson, State Minister Joseph Harmon, on Thursday denied that any directive had been issued from the Executive level of Government to discontinue the columns of the two commentators, who have been outspokenly critical of the Coalition Administration.He has directed questions regarding the source of the decision to the Board of theDr David HindsGuyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL).That board held a meeting on Saturday, and in a statement issued thereafter, said a decision was taken to refer the issue to a fully constituted board, which was scheduled to meet last Tuesday, during which a policy decision on the general direction of the content of the paper would be determined.However, asked whether there was, in regard to these columnists’ writings, any political discomfort on part of Government or sections of the administration, Minister Harmon said, “I won’t be able to say. You know we’ve always encouraged freedom of the press, free expressions and so on. So, certainly, from my part, I‘ve never had a discomfort. In fact, I welcome those types of criticisms, because (they make) you better and stronger; and I’ve, on so many occasions, responded to them.”Further probed as to whether there was any discomfort from his colleagues in theTrade unionist Lincoln LewisExecutive, the State Minister added, “I can’t say about that, because it was never a matter of policy discussed. There may have been some persons who might have been uncomfortable, but I cannot say specifically whether there’re persons who were actually at discomfort about it.”Questioned as to whether the Executive would, without interfering with the autonomy of the newspaper, suggest that the publication of articles from the columnists be restored, the Government’s spokesman outlined that that decision is a matter for the Board and Management of the Chronicle newspapers.The Guyana Press Association (GPA) had, last week, also expressed concerns over the Chronicle’s decision to end its relationship with the two columnists.“The GPA finds it puzzling that after two and a half years of featuring columns and editorials by the two experts in their own right…, the newspaper decided to discontinue publishing their columns,” a statement from the body said.That statement went on to outline that the right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Article 146:1, which states: “Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression; that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his correspondence.”The GPA has accordingly called on the Chronicle’s Editor-in-Chief, the Board of Directors, and by extension the Government, to revisit the decision with the aim of reinstating the views of these columnists, in keeping with the Guyana Chronicle’s motto – “the Nation’s Newspaper”.