Politicians, GPA and the media

THE Guyanese media and press continue to develop, meeting the country’s need for accurate, balanced and factual information about issues of public importance so that informed opinions could be formed and decisions can be made pertaining to the government or authorities.

Over the last few decades, the media has made significant inroads with protecting its members….who report, write, edit, video, produce, and generally bring the public the unfiltered and filtered versions of accurate information.

It is understood that the media and press have an important and indispensable role to play in Guyana, especially now that it has found oil and gas, and is climbing the ladder, moving closer to modernisation than in any other period before in history.

While there are some who practise the good and critical tenants of the media and press profession, there are those who play the game by their own rules but are hiding behind the veil that is provided by media or press body.

The latter has no interest in reporting the facts or getting the real and true story or news items as they unfold. They have no interest in holding the authorities or government accountable; transparency, or making sure that good governance takes place in society.

Simply put, they are not the gatekeepers for the public and the public eye. They are leeches who suck away at the lifeline of the media and press profession in Guyana, hiding behind the veil of media protection and rights.

They write their own headlines, mislead and concoct stories almost daily for the shock and outrageous value that it brings to them. These so-called media, press and independent commentators appear to be sensationalising information which they brand as news and carry all types of different narrative that are not true, anti-government, anti-development and even to a far lesser extent, anti-opposition.

Recently, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Public Affairs, Kwame McCoy took serious umbrage to the quality of media and press coverage given to the government work and outreaches by President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali. They spoke convincingly and factually about certain sections of the media, specifically the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News and others twisting what they actually said at media events, thereby misleading the viewers and readers about government policies and positions on a wide menu of things.

They were both making strong points and clarifying that they were not attacking, intimidating; and vexed with the media, but that they wanted their perspectives and points to be accurately portrayed too.

They, as expected, were unapologetic for positions taken on some government issues.
After and during the back and forth, the President of the Guyana Press Association, Nazima Raghubir, came to the defence of the media and press, stating a whole bunch of totally unrelated and complex issues.

Sadly, Raghubir, respectfully, missed the boat on the issue that caused Jagdeo and McCoy to speak out.
In her haste to condemn the government and appear as though she is functioning effectively for allegedly re-election purposes, she may not have understood the issues clearly.
If she did, she would have seen that they have nothing to do with intimidation or press freedom, but government seeking to get the media and press to play their role fairly, accurately, and factually.

In spite of which side of the political spectrum she finds herself now, there was no need to issue a statement, or to berate the politicians or party.
She should have called Jagdeo and McCoy, requesting a meeting to discuss whatever issue that was raised with the GPA on behalf of the media houses and personalities.
Sober and steady leadership would have resulted in the GPA President engaging her executive meaningfully to get an outcome.

She should not have, especially when it is not provoked and warranted, adopted the hostile and confrontational approach to managing the affairs of media houses and professionals in Guyana.
While there are some challenges that media and press professionals face with getting information in a timely manner, there has been a freeing up of critical pieces of information, unlike the years of the David Granger administration.

Raghubir knows that since August 2020, government officials are out and about everywhere compared to what obtained during the 2015 and 2020 periods.
What she should focus on are the GPA elections that are slated for May, and seeking to explain the dwindling finances of the association during the time she took office.
She must address the brain drain that is threatening Guyanese media and press workers even in this booming economy.

Maybe, the final days should be focused on representing and finding a solution to the many internal issues that the media has as opposed to functioning as a politician while in office. It is not cute nor is it the right thing to do if she blurs the line between her job as an executive and that of a politician.

With no diss to the local media and press, professionals must keep asking for answers until the politicians give a sufficient reply to the questions that are based on facts. Ask hard questions and ask the right and important questions that make the Opposition and Government uncomfortable because it is in the public’s interest to so do.

Do not settle for just going along with the editor or publisher changing a story and interfering with the facts of the matter or issue if they can’t justify it. Wrong is wrong and right is right!
The Guyanese media must be treated with the respect and must be accommodated properly. Politicians from both sides of the divide must get comfortable with being asked the most difficult and uncomfortable questions during the media conferences, events and side-lines.

The media and press must not continue to play victim every time there is an objection to their work, conduct or professionalism. The media cannot be so intolerant and arsine of criticism. They must not be so timid and weak when politicians speak on media fairness, balanced and factualness.

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