Apr 30, 2016 News
The state-owned media will continue to have a Government presence without political interference from the government, President David Granger said yesterday at a workshop for journalists.
His declaration came on the heels of accusations levelled against the Prime Minister’s office by the Guyana Press Association. The association had written the President, accusing Prime Minster Moses Nagamootoo and Director of Public Information, Imran Khan, of interfering with the work of the state media. The GPA cited interference from “Government Ministers, departments and officials of the administration”.
The workshop, which attracted persons from local and international NGOs, journalists and members of the Guyana Press Association, was held at the Regency Suites Hotel on Hadfield Street. The participants held constructive debates on the reporting of suicide.
President Granger, who declared the forum open, stated that it was necessary for state-owned media companies to remain because private media are located largely on the coastland and thus, will not possess sufficient resources to communicate public information to all citizens, especially those living in the hinterland and rural regions.
He indicated that the state media is not intended to compete for or to dominate the information space, but is committed to protecting citizens’ constitutional right to communicate ideas and to receive information.
On this note, he said that the “state media will continue to provide this service in a dispassionate and professional manner”.
The state media has a duty, he said, to report on national development and projects since such information is often sensational enough to be given attention by the private media. He added that such issues are often not given publicity by the mainstream private media.
A state-owned media is controlled financially or editorially by the state. According to “Who owns the media? World Bank Publications, 2002”, generally, state ownership of the media is found in poor, autocratic non-democratic countries, with highly interventionist governments that have some interest in controlling the flow of information.
President Granger said that journalism is a noble profession based on social responsibility, education, ethics and experience, and that it is the duty of the press association to enforce these standards of performance and to protect journalists from abuse.
He said that the coalition government recognizes and respects the duties of the media to report accurately and without bias on all three arms of the state, and that they are obliged to report the views of all parties in the National Assembly in the course of public business.
State-run media entities have a duty to ensure that the opinions of those on the margins of society are heard, and should serve the interests of all the people of Guyana and not only the Government.
“State media have an obligation to inform the people about community development projects. The people are entitled to know the details of these projects,” he said, indicating that the media can also become proactive in disseminating economic, environmental, health and climate advisories and providing information about public services.
Granger said that the state is devoted to the promotion of a “high degree of media professionalism,” and so they will not undermine the professionalism of state journalists by subjecting them to political direction or interference in their work.
He said that the administration is committed, also, to non-interference in the independent media, noting that it is the private media that act as watchdogs of government.
“They promote transparency by ensuring that information is provided to the public on the work of Government. They are a source of valuable feedback on the effectiveness of the efforts of the government,” he asserted, adding that there is no good reason for the State to interfere in the work of the private media.
“The relationship between the State and the private media must be seen as a partnership in providing a public good. Independence of thought must be preserved, professionalism must be promoted and the Constitution must be upheld,” Granger declared, indicating the government’s intention to develop ten strong regions administered by ten ‘capital towns’.
“It is our expectation that in the not too distant future, each ‘capital town’ could contribute to closing the communications gap with its citizens by establishing its own media “ newspapers, radio and television “ along with facilitating the prevalent social media.”
He stated that the previous administration in October 1992 had rescinded from its promise to dismantle the state monopoly of the media and to guarantee private ownership of the media and to open the media to different shades of opinion.
Two of the principal consequences of state media ownership are the complications with press freedom and journalistic objectivity.
According to a World Audit survey on press freedom in Guyana, private media experience great difficulty in persuading government officials to comment on issues, and instead of being granted interviews, journalists are referred to press releases issued by the Government Information Agency.
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