Apr 05, 2017 News
The Guyana Press Association (GPA) has blazed Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, for what it says is a clear attempt to direct the editorial content of the state-owned newspaper, Guyana Chronicle.
The newspaper on Monday published a Letter to the Editor titled “Your lead story should have been the swearing-in of the mayors and deputy mayors”.
Bulkan, in his letter, believed that the newspaper, in its March 31st issue, erred in carrying a story on Guyana’s oil search as lead instead of the swearing in. He argued that a strong local government system is critical to Guyana’s development. He warned of the dangers of oil and the importance of Guyana having strong systems.
The letter saw an Editor’s Note, apologetic in its tone, saying that the choice of headlines is an editorial judgment call. The newspaper said it welcomed criticisms.
However, the very presence of the letter in the newspaper has unsettled the GPA which said it is
startled by the bold move of Bulkan to upbraid the editorial team.
“…in his letter, he even attempted to dictate the editorial direction of the newspaper! His missive, which appeared only in the Guyana Chronicle, can only be interpreted as an attempt to drive fear into the editors and reporters of that newspaper with the sole aim of securing censorship and self-censorship,” GPA said.
The association pointed out that this posture by the minister clearly smacks of a past government that the coalition parties, separately and collectively, had criticised for seeking to dictate and control the editorial content of the state media.
“The minister’s stance runs counter to the exceptionally excellent effort by the newspaper in imbuing in the editorial staff, through its recently concluded training programme, the rudiments of the craft of journalism.”
GPA said that Bulkan would do well to be accessible to the media and account for his ministry’s various programmes and policies rather than resort to “cloak and dagger approach” to driving fear in state media operatives about his preference for one story over the other.
GPA also expressed alarm at the current structure of the Board of Directors.
“Sadly, Minister Bulkan’s reprimand continues the deeply worrying direction of the Chronicle newspapers by the executive. We wish to place on record our strong disagreement with the continued role of the Director of Public Information (Imran Khan) as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited, publishers of the Guyana Chronicle.”
GPA said that this sends an unmistakable signal of the executive government controlling the work of the Chronicle.
The association also said that a senior government official is directing the show at Chronicle.
“Further, a senior government Minister continues to dictate coverage of his office to the Editor- in-Chief and often has stories sent for his approval once it has to do with his office or the PNC, the main party in the governing coalition.”
In addition, GPA said it is aware that the weekly meetings of the Prime Minister with senior executives of the state media continues to be used as a tool to dictate editorial content and to silence or trivialise opposition views.
“These actions run counter and, in fact, are in direct opposition to President David Granger’s repeated assertions that his government will allow state newspaper, TV and radio to function as independent entities.”
The association said it is calling on President David Granger to ensure that Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo and the rest of his Cabinet understand his stated policy on the state media, and to urge them to let their actions be guided accordingly.
The release also said that the body will be transmitting the statement to the association of Caribbean Media Workers, international press freedom body Reporters Without Borders, and other international bodies as part of a dossier of instances of the deteriorating state media climate in Guyana.
“The Guyana Press Association further urges the Board of Directors of state-owned TV, radio and newspaper to represent the editorial staff of the Guyana Chronicle against centrally directed dictatorship in the editorial content of their entities. The GPA also urges all media workers to continue to carry out their work in a professional and ethical manner and to uphold the virtues of this most important profession.”
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