Damned if you do and damned if you don’t
Hardly a day goes by without the government in general, and President Bharrat Jagdeo in particular, accusing sections of the media of biased and anti-government reporting. As recent as Sunday President Jagdeo launched an attack on Kaieteur News, Stabroek News, Capitol News, Prime News and the internet publication, Demerara Waves, accusing them of seeking the fall of his government.
A blog that emanates from within the walls of Office of the President is promoting the idea that each of these media houses is in support of one or other of the political opposition parties. Such has been the constant carping by the government that even some of its staunch supporters have taken to penning missives critical of these media houses.
However, close examination would reveal that these oft criticized media houses are professional in their approach. With the elections a few days ago, the Media Monitoring Unit has begun monitoring the local media. The findings of the MMU seem to turn the perception of the government on its head. Further, it highlights the fact that the state-controlled and state-supporting media should not even be considered national media outlets.
For example, the newest kid on the block, Guyana Times, earned this scathing comment from the MMU. “The Unit is very much cognizant of the inherent constraints faced by reporters when gathering information in the field, such as fear of victimization by potential sources and the enforcement of official gag- orders in the Public Service.
“Every time certain clichés were used as a means of attributing information to “unnamed” sources, it was done with a specific political agenda or intention of conveying either positive or negative information to the general public about a political entity – be it a political party or the government.” In the case of attribution to the government the comment was always positive.
“It is downright disingenuous and against the letter and spirit of the Code to abuse the facility of unnamed sources in order to score cheap political points on behalf of a favoured political entity.”
The solitary radio station, which is state-owned, is also no exception. “The news team of NCN News gave the Government substantial amounts of positive and neutral coverage… The coverage given, resulted in the government receiving a positive to negative ratio of coverage of almost 176:1.” Simply put, for every 176 positive reports for the government, the station carried one negative report.
The Chronicle was the same. The positive to negative ratio of coverage calculated for the Government, in this instance, was significant at 188:1. “The PPP/C was the only party that was apportioned positive coverage by the editorial writers.” The very newspaper, through its news reports, apportioned A Partnership for National Unity negative to positive ratio of coverage of 121:1. The PPP/C scored a positive to negative ratio of coverage of over 1220:1
The report on every other media house showed reporting heavily biased in favour of the government and of the PPPC. And so we focus on the so-called government media.
For all the criticisms, PPPC got more positive coverage than any other party on CNS6—that is to be understood when one recalls that the government moved to suspend this television station for four months and would have done so had the opposition parties not intervened.
Commenting on its monitoring in October the MMU noted, “The news team of Prime News furnished the Government and the Political Parties with coverage as follows: the Government was given substantial amounts of positive, negative and neutral coverage, attracting, in the process, measurably more positive than negative publicity.”
Kaieteur News, the other Government whipping boy performed even better in the eyes of the MMU. “The Government received moderate amounts of positive, negative and neutral coverage, with the negative being measurably larger than the positive, resulting in net negative coverage to them (the Government).
“ All three of the major political parties – PPP/C, APNU and AFC – were the recipients of negligible amounts of negative and neutral coverage, which did not amount to anything significant in terms of providing the basis for a comparative analysis to be made.”
“Amongst the political parties, the PPP/C stood out with the largest amount of positive coverage, followed by APNU, AFC, TUF and JFAP. At the individual level, the PPP/C gained a positive to negative ratio of coverage of over 3:1”
Take this against the Chronicle where all cartoons were negative, equally shared between APNU and AFC. We can only conclude that the slightest criticism places anyone in the ranks of the anti-government. It is remarkable when one considered that all these media houses signed a media code of conduct.
And for the records, the government is saying that it does not support the findings of the MMU.