SINCE the restoration of democracy in this nation, the role and responsibility of the media have been subjects of intense public debate and discussion.
And such is clearly understandable, given the destruction of this critical pillar of democracy occasioned by the brutal PNC dictatorship. The PPP/C administration, cognizant from its inception that the voice of the people had been brutally silenced during those dark years — that saw, for example, the existence of The Catholic Standard and even its Mirror newspaper being practically starved of newsprint material, and the brutal bayonetting to death of the Standard’s Father Bernard Darke and the many incidents of sustained harassment of Father Andrew Morrison by the then State security apparatus — sees the experiences of the era at reference as a lesson for local journalists of this generation as to what it is for the media to exist in a country devoid of a democratic culture.
Nothing less was expected of this new government, especially against the background of their former experience with the ‘Burnhamite’ regime that had deprived them many times over of their basic democratic rights.
And they did not disappoint expectations, for within three years of being in government, press freedom was alive and flourishing, with several private television stations and a new print medium coming into existence — all privately-owned and managed.
It was evident that these new media arrivals strove to reflect in their programme content a varied outlook on issues, but one that was in consonance with the traditional political ideology of the two major parties.
All views were aired without hindrance. No one was gagged or threatened under this new dispensation; so much so that the question of media conduct began to be the subject of public debate, prompted by early evidence of inflammatory reporting.
It was only fair that the PPP/C administration, much to its eternal credit, issued a call for responsible media conduct in the manner of reporting and discussion of national issues, a position it has steadfastly upheld, and one that was supported by the senior of the two private print media, Stabroek News, particularly during the era of its late publisher, David DeCaires.
The media, whether print or electronic, have been described in myriad ways, beginning with being the chief public watchdog and defender; defender of the citizen’s rights; upholder of democracy; chief citizens’ mouthpiece; and the mast bearer against injustice.
This has been the picture which Kaieteur News has presented, purportedly to justify its well known culture of sensationalism, outrageously ugly and ludicrous in every respect, as it intensifies its bitter campaign of misrepresentation, misinformation and vilification of the PPP/C administration, undoubtedly supporting an unmistaken political agenda, in its now established role as chief media voice for, and on behalf of, the political opposition.
How can this media connoisseur of sustained, unsubstantiated reports ever claim to be responsible? Does this print medium understand its role, hence its responsibility?
No one denies this organ its sacred rights. For such is its undertaking in keeping with the hallowed tenets of its craft, more so in a democratic society such as Guyana. But it must be reminded, time and again, of its responsibility to be balanced and fair, gathering all relevant data possible before going public.
It must be reminded, too, that regardless of its political hue, it has no right to clamber up the dangerous slope of mischief, misinformation, and gross irresponsibility so as to satisfy its narrow political objectives.
Such actions are dangerous and subversive, anti-nationalistic and primarily designed to horribly trample the truth, thereby facilitating the conditions for national dissension and unrest, which this nation that has advanced commendably for the past 18 years can ill afford.
How must the role of this particular media house be adjudged when it discloses the names of security officials and other sensitive security data, that compromise not only the lives of these operatives but also national security; as well as splashes, as is its forte, bold front page pictorials of state projects for the wellbeing of citizens, suggesting financial impropriety without recourse to verification with relevant authorities?
It has been the norm that when proven wrong, the newspaper again seeks to twist the facts, not acknowledging that it published incorrect information. This is irresponsible journalism.
Questions therefore need to be asked as to the role and responsibility of this medium.
It is time that the readership of Kaieteur News begin to seriously review their support for a medium that continues to mislead with lies and deception.