One of the most independent and critical columns in the Chronicle Newspaper— Hinds’ Sight— has been dropped as a result of a new editorial direction being taken by the media house.
This decision was recently communicated to the Hind’s Sight author, WPA Executive Member Dr. David Hinds by the Editor of the Chronicle, Nigel Williams.
In his email to the columnist, Williams said the following: “It is with deep regret, that I inform you that effective March 12, your Sunday column ‘Hinds’s Sight’ will be discontinued. This decision has been arrived at following discussions at the highest level of the company in keeping with policy directions.”
“The Guyana Chronicle as it continues with its rebranding would like to focus on new areas which require specialist interventions at this time. On behalf of management, I wish to sincerely thank you for your contributions over the past two years, and wish you every success in your future endeavours.”
In a statement to the press, Dr. Hinds said that the weekly column was not published over the last two weeks. He said that the Editor informed him on the first occasion that it was submitted too late. When it was not carried the following week, Dr. Hinds said that he asked the Editor for an explanation and he responded with a letter as quoted above.
Dr. Hinds said, “I am not sure whether the decision to discontinue my column was politically motivated. It is not clear whether the decision was taken in-house, at the level of the Board or within the political corridors. But because I am a political person who comments on political matters, it is not out of place to speculate that the decision was politically motivated. I am aware, that sometimes junior agents of the government do bad things, because they feel that, that is what the government wants them to do.”
The University Professor continued, “So, maybe persons in the management feel that my independent stances which are sometimes critical of the government are not fit for a state-owned entity or maybe they were given directives from above. I don’t know. Only the Editor in Chief and his leadership team and can answer that.”
The political commentator added, “They should also say whether their decision was sanctioned by the Board. And the Board has to say what role, if any, it played in the decision. Did the Editor act based on directives from the Board, political overlords or on his own behalf?
The WPA Executive Member said that it has always been an uncomfortable relationship with the newspaper, largely because he is not a “yes-man”; he is independent.
He recalled that two years ago the Sunday Editor refused to publish the column that took offence to the president’s summary dismissal of the report and findings of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry (COI). Dr. Hinds commented that apparently, the Editor felt that he was disrespectful of the president.
The Executive Member said, “I support the government—some would say in an institutional way, I am part of the government—but that support does not muzzle me. I live by the principle that support must not be blind and uncritical. That’s the tradition that I come from—a tradition that is pioneered in modern Guyana by Eusi Kwayana and Walter Rodney.”
He continued, “That is what drove my columns which are meant to inspire debate, to educate in a popular way and to ask questions of and oversight power. I take those duties seriously, because I feel that a society without them is a dead society.”
Dr. Hinds added, “I feel that the Chronicle has slipped right back to where it was during the Jagdeo years—it has again become an unvarnished mouthpiece of the government. I feel that my column and Lincoln Lewis’ are critical to holding the line against that trend.”
The political commentator noted that a State-owned newspaper is not a government-owned paper—the government manages the paper on behalf of the State. Hence, all stakeholders should have equal coverage and be subjected to the same scrutiny, the commentator said. Unfortunately, Dr. Hinds said that this is not the case.
He stated that news-stories on the PPP are often presented with editorial bias.
“I don’t mind editorials and opinion pieces taking the PPP to task, but news should be free from editorial bias. We fought for these things against the two previous governments. So it’s sad to see us going right back to those unhealthy practices. It is as if we have not grown up, we have not learned anything from past mistakes.”
The WPA Executive Member said that it amounts to a mockery of democracy and true independence. He said that the PPP did it and there was strong objection so that this government does not do it, encourage it or tolerate it.
Dr. Hinds said, “In the long run, if the discontinuation of my column is overtly or covertly motivated by political considerations, we are in a bad place—a sad place. I await a statement from the Board, before I make further comments on the matter. In the meantime, I wish to caution that this raises larger questions about freedom of speech, censorship and democracy.”
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