Jul 27, 2011 News
– GPA calls action outlandish and despicable
The Office of the President summoned a member of the Presidential Guard into a press briefing today in which Kaieteur New reporter Neil Marks sought to ask questions of Minister of Education Shaik Baksh in the ongoing “barber shop” scandal.
The Guyana Press Association (GPA) said it was appalled that the Office of the President resorted to “intimidating tactics” and deemed the action “outlandish and despicable.”
Minister Baksh sat in on a press conference hosted by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon in which he sought to discredit reports by the Kaieteur News on the award of computer contracts to Digital Technology.
At the end of opening statements, it is customary for questions to be asked regarding matters in the opening statement. Kaieteur News journalist Neil Marks had already asked questions of Minister Baksh, but when he realised that questions were being asked outside of matters raised in the opening statements of the press conference, raised his hand and indicated that he had yet more questions for Minister Baksh and would like to ask those, lest the excuse of “time does not permit” is used so he wouldn’t be able to ask further questions.
At this point, Kwame McCoy, Information Liaison Officer to the President, shouted that the press conference was not Marks’ and proceeded to instruct that security be called in. One of the Presidential Guards were summoned and stayed for the remainder of the press conference. As expected, despite repeated further attempts, Marks was not permitted to ask any further questions and the conference ended.
Following the press conference, Dr Luncheon said that security was called in as a “preemptive” measure, accusing Marks of displaying “confrontational behavior.”
The GPA said the resort to use of a Presidential Guard as pre-emptive action is scary and an ominous sign of things to come.
“It is particularly disturbing when the Government of Democratic Guyana (GOD-G) and the Ruling Party the PPP have dubbed certain section of the Guyanese media as hostile media,” the GPA stated.
The GPA noted that there was enough time to entertain questions from the members of the media present but the State officials decided that (a) they will limit the number of questions asked by a particular section of the media and (b) use intimidation and maximum administrative delay to prevent such questions. Even if the reporter appeared to have been intemperate in his interventions, today’s resort to having security summoned was a gross over reaction.
The GPA said it deplores these actions as government officials are in fact servants of the people and custodians of the People’s trust.
“These officials are therefore accountable to the people. The members of media hold the privileged position of access to hold these officials accountable for all actions including sins of commission and omission,” the GPA stated.
The press body said it is becoming clearer that in this election year the ruling party, the PPP and the Government are both becoming hostile to the private media with their onslaught of falsehoods and accusations of imbalance.
“The GPA rejects this latest attack on local journalists as outlandish and despicable.”
The press body noted that this latest attack adds to banning of the GPA president from State House and the Office of the President, the labeling of media houses, the withdrawal of ads, the pressure brought on TV and other media houses, the introduction of the Broadcast and Access to Information bills with gross limitations.
The GPA said these actions by the State apparatus that has moved from the Good to the Bad and now teetering on being Ugly.
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