…Eventually, Chronicle Newspaper should revert to private ownership
By Kiana Wilburg
A free, pluralistic and independent media community, on all platforms, is important for facilitating good
governance and transparency.
With an aim of ensuring that this is achieved on all levels and to the highest degree, President David Granger has given his thoughts on the role of the state media recently and how he sees its future in the dispensation of information.
On the televised show, The Public Interest, the Head of State noted that the state has a responsibility, particularly in a country like Guyana, to provide current information. Granger said that most media houses are located in Georgetown or on the coastland. This, he said, has resulted in a large part of the country not being covered by the private media.
He said that the private media, to some degree, is driven by profit and there is no profit in setting up a station at Lethem or Aishalton. Granger said that most of these areas do not get the full benefit of information and as such, the state has a responsibility to provide information to those communities whether it is on health issues, natural hazards, epidemic diseases or threats to the communities in those areas.
But beyond the role of providing information, the President said that he feels that media must be free. He said that is where the private media has a role.
The Head of State said that he does not believe that the state should attempt to control the private media. He hopes that the state withdraws from competing with the private media and just pays attention to its primary role of providing public information.
Granger said that under the Constitution, it is quite clear that all citizens have certain rights to transmit and receive information. He noted that the state cannot contradict or contravene the Constitution by preventing citizens from receiving information. He said that in this regard, it is considered carte blanche for the private media to operate, but within certain limits of course.
“But as I see it, eventually the state must withdraw from competing with the private media in terms of publishing newspapers or television services. The state’s role is to provide public information and I see that organizations like GINA (Government Information Agency) and NCN (National Communications Network) could continue but the commercial arms like Chronicle newspaper, in due course, should eventually revert to private ownership,” expressed the President.
He continued, “It is a period of transition but I don’t believe that we need to get involved in that type of activity anymore.”
Being the historian he is, Granger said that the state media had its origins in the Second World War when there was a need to provide certain controls and certain messages because of the security situations during the war.
He noted that a period of constitutional crisis followed; the British government continued to maintain control of information through the Government Information Service (GIS). The President said he does not believe that the state should maintain those controls any longer.
He said, “I believe in free media and as Head of State, I need criticisms, I need to be told where the government is going wrong. I need an alert media community, one that will look at projects, how people are being treated, the dangers of diseases, environmental hazards and alert the government to the people’s concerns. I can’t do without criticisms. No government can do without criticisms.”
The Head of State continued, “I don’t want someone to always be telling me ‘Oh yea, yea everything is fine, everything is going good.’ And I don’t want state media personnel to feel that their roles are to simply tell the government good things and not report what is being said by the other side.”
Granger said that the Government consists of three branches; the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary and the state media must report on all three branches.
He said that in the Legislative branch for example, there are the usual debates the state media must report on Government’s side as well as the arguments being put forward by the political opposition.
“I have to hear the Opposition’s side to know what half the population is taking, thinking and saying and so the state media must report on both sides. So in due course, the actual functions, the commercial functions I hope would disappear.”
The President asserted that in the meantime, the state will continue to provide credible information to the entire population.
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