Guyana has been elevated five places on the Reporters With Borders (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, which the Guyana Press Association (GPA) said comes amidst “significant hurdles” yet to be overcome.From among 180 countries, Index of Press Freedom ranking worldwide puts Guyana at 55 compared to 60 in 2017. The country was given zero under the category of “abuse score”; and 26.25 for “underlying situation score”.Guyana’s position has placed it below its neighbour Suriname which was in spot 21, but above its other two bordering neighbours, Brazil and Venezuela, which were placed in the 102 and 143 positions, respectively.The GPA on Wednesday said it welcomes this improved ranking but with some reservations.According to the Association, while this may seem somewhat of an achievement, there are still significant hurdles to be crossed before Guyanese can feel that an improved ranking really matters.These include the removal of existing criminal defamation laws in line with globally accepted standards; the deletion of offending sections in the Cybercrime Bill that could result in further entrenchment of criminal defamation; the amendment to the Broadcasting Act to remove direct intervention in the programming schedule of radio and television stations, except in cases of emergencies; political interference in the State-owned and privately-owned media by Government and the Opposition.In fact, the GPA went on to highlight the removal of the two outspoken columnists from the State-owned Guyana Chronicle; a situation, which it said, appears not to have bothered the coalition Government and its professed commitment to press freedom and freedom of expression.To this end, the Association is calling for remedial actions to be taken by the relevant authorities to further enhance Guyana’s ranking on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index in 2019.Meanwhile, the RSF said on Guyana’s profile in the World Press Freedom Index that while the country’s Constitution guarantees free speech and the right to information, officials often use its defamation laws – which provide for fines and up to two years in jail – to silence Opposition journalists.“The members of the media regulatory authority are appointed directly by the President. This restricts the freedom of certain media outlets, which are denied licences. Recent attempts to improve regulation of the broadcast industry involved no consultation with any broadcasters. Journalists are still subjected to harassment that takes the form of prosecutions, suspensions, and intimidation. A draft Cybercrime Bill could penalise whistleblowers and media for publishing information collected ‘illegally’,” the RSF highlighted.Back in August, the RSF had issued a statement urging President David Granger not to assent to the Broadcasting Bill that was adopted by Guyana’s National Assembly, and called for consultations with broadcasters in order to take into account their recommendations. The current bill, which was adopted without such consultation, raises multiple press freedom concerns.