It is not a case of taking it how you want to take it. In any part of the world, if you tell someone that you are going to “deal with” them, that is a threat.
If in Guyana, someone tells you that they are going to “deal with you”, that is considered to be a threat. If you report that threat to the police, they are going to arrest the person making that threat and charge them with threatening language.
A report was filed to the police concerning alleged threats that were made to reporters at a press conference hosted by the Guyana Forestry Commission. It is left to be seen whether the police will arrest the person allegedly making those threats and pass that person through the Courts.
I would not be surprised if the persons to whom those specific threats were directed decide that they no longer wish to work for the media houses that presently employ them. In the case of Kaieteur News, this latest incident comes soon after another unrelated incident in which men in a highly-tinted dark vehicle were seen photographing the building that houses this newspaper’s headquarters.
The Guyana Press Association said nothing at the time. It is hoped that it will now condemn the threats made to “deal with” Kaieteur News, Stabroek News, and specific reporters.
I hope also that the body will condemn the fact that the Guyana Forestry Commission allowed persons not associated with the media to be part of its press conference and to intimidate media houses when they were asking questions. This is totally unacceptable.
But it is not unprecedented. Following the 1997 elections which the PNC lost, the press conferences hosted at Congress Place were allowed to be overrun by all kinds of elements. These elements swarmed the location and this led to journalists being encircled and intimidated. In most cases, journalists from the State-owned media were afraid to open their mouths for fear of being mugged and otherwise abused by the elements that were being allowed to be part of those conferences.
Indeed in one instance the video camera of one State-owned company was taken away from a member of the media by criminal elements that disappeared into the safe haven of Congress Place. The expensive equipment was never recovered. There was open intimidation of government-owned journalists during that period. This led to State-owned media houses being afraid to cover PNC-organized marches and demonstrations.
One would have presumed that the government would have tried to avoid repeating such an unsavoury history. Just why the Guyana Forestry Commission would have allowed certain elements from outside of the media to be at its press conference is beyond comprehension. Just why also it would have allowed those persons to openly intimidate the journalists of both the Stabroek News and the Kaieteur News is also incomprehensible.
The Guyana Forestry Commission was keen to defend its stewardship of the forestry sector. It opted to do so in the context of what it saw as unwarranted attacks by certain media houses.
In defending its record, it needed to ensure that it did so by availing the media of not only the facts as the Guyana Forestry Commission sees it, but also by allowing the media to freely pose questions and clarify issues. It should never have allowed persons outside of the media into a press conference, much less elements that openly intimidated the members of certain media houses. This was a colossal mistake for which the Guyana Forestry Commission, if it is truly independent, should apologize.
The Guyana Forestry Commission has shot itself in the foot. It needed to get its message over. A press conference was called so that this message could be transmitted to the public through the media. Why then invite elements whose behaviour turned counterproductive to the Guyana Forestry Commission’s objective.
It just goes to show the level of political desperation of the government. It is clutching at straws. It is desperate to ride out the storm that has erupted over the operations of Bai Shan Lin. And in its desperation, it has desecrated a press conference.
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