Persons can now find themselves facing a fine of $100,000 and three months imprisonment for reporting a death by suicide without official approval from the designated coroner. This is according to Section 20 (2) of the Suicide Prevention Bill passed in the National Assembly on November 7, 2022.
Section 20(1) of the bill notes that, “A person shall not report a death as a suicide or suspected suicide, whether expressly or indirectly before the person confirms that – (a) a medical practitioner who performed an autopsy on the body has officially deemed that death to be a suicide or suspected suicide: and (b) a Coroner officially approves, in the public interest, the reporting of the death as a suicide or suspected suicide.”
It further outlines that the reporting of death by suicide is not limited to mainstream media, which would include newspapers, television and radio, but also includes such material published in books, journals, magazines, on the internet and on social media sites.
According to Section 20(2) of the bill, “A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred thousand dollars and to imprisonment for three months.”
Section 20 of the bill which was deemed as ‘comprehensive and transformational’ places a heavy focus on responsible reporting of suicide in Guyana, to mitigate the risk of encouraging or enabling other persons to commit the act. In fact, the bill also prescribes that in the event of reporting a suicide, one must not indicate directly or indirectly, the details of a person’s suicide, whether in words, pictures or videos. This would include the method used to commit the act.
In addition, the bill also goes against revealing the identity of the deceased and family members unless it is done in the best interest of the public and the need to do so outweighs the risk of causing further suicides by making these revelations.