There is a greater need for ethnic sensitivity in the appointment of public officers than there is in the reporting of such appointments. The media does not need to fact-check these appointments; the government needs to stop being disingenuous about these appointments.
The government should not try to play smart when it comes to what is deemed as government appointments. The government is not the Cabinet alone. The government also includes government agencies, departments, corporations and semi-autonomous agencies.
The government therefore must not try to claim that the government is not responsible for appointments at the University of Guyana. The university is a public institution. It has its own Council, but the State owns the university and the government has appointees to the Council.
The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation appointed a Chief Executive Officer who is a retired military officer. But was this position advertised or was the person handpicked? One may wish to ask about the criteria which the Board used to arrive at its choice. The government cannot pretend that it had no role in this appointment. Who is going to believe that?
The Boards of government agencies and corporations are appointed by the government, which then cannot turn around and disown these appointments. The respective Ministers hold Ministerial responsibility for these agencies and are answerable for what happens within.
The government should be the least one to be complaining about the lack of sensitivity by the media in reporting on government appointments. Too many appointments have seen persons handpicked without going through a competitive process. If an audit were to be done as to the persons who were appointed from top to bottom without a competitive process, the results would be most interesting.
The media can be faulted, but for not for a lack of sensitivity. The media can be faulted for a lack of interest. The media has failed to question a number of appointments, which have been made. Were it not for commentators, a great many of the concerns which have been expressed about these appointments would go without notice. The heads of the Department of the Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Who handpicked the persons chosen?
Shortly after it assumed office, the APNU+AFC government announced its list of reconstituted Boards. The announcement of the new Boards led to a huge outcry from commentators in civil society – not from the media – about the lack of gender and ethnic balance. After the outcry, the government moved quickly to ensure gender and ethnic balance. But had there not been an outcry from certain quarters, perhaps there would have been more to complain about today.
The media is aware of the need for sensitivity in reporting certain matters. Sure it cannot scream “fire” in a crowded cinema. But it should also not refuse to expose certain trends in appointments. The greater source of concern is not the reporting, but the disquiet, which may result from unfair or biased appointments, including cronyism and nepotism.
The government’s attention is better directed to the government media, because in recent times the Guyana Chronicle, in particular, has featured items, which have gone beyond the pale
The government must put its house in order before it lectures to anyone about principles of journalism. Not that the private media is any paragon of professionalism.
And no amount of training is going to solve the problem of blinkered reporting. Guyana’s journalism is poisoned because of political prejudices and some of the biggest culprits are those who should be mentors for young journalists.
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