Jun 16, 2020 News
By Mikaila Prince
In light of recent complaints by members of the media regarding incumbent President David Granger’s limited press engagements, Director of the Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) Unit at the Ministry of the Presidency, Ariana Gordon came out to justify the Head of State’s actions.
Gordon’s comments were in response to questions posed to her by Kaieteur News, after the President conducted an interview on Sunday to which only four media houses were given approval to take part in.
The Press Director claimed that there is a ranged criterion which goes into the decision-making process for the Head of State’s media engagements. She explained that these include, but are not limited to, requests received, audience and reach, type of media platform, the message, the President’s schedule and availability. She added that the Office of the President considers this range of factors for all media engagements and reserves the right to offer exclusives, group interviews and other types of media engagements.
Gordon’s criteria appear difficult to apply to the decision to exclude this paper especially considering that Kaieteur News is Guyana’s largest selling daily newspaper, possesses a radio station with a coast-to-coast frequency distribution, as well as a Facebook platform and a webpage that receives web-traffic of over 100,000 individual hits every day.
Gordon went on to highlight that on a daily basis, “the PIPS Unit receives many requests for interviews, comments, and statements and we have always endeavored to facilitate as many of these as time allows.” Gordon maintained that the Ministry’s “practice has always been to engage with all media outlets in a way that underscores fairness and balance, and we will continue to do so.”
However, the President has recently given two exclusive hour-long interviews in less than a month to New York-based APNU+AFC activist, Mark Benschop.
President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA), Nazima Ragubhir was asked by this publication about whether she inquired with the Press Director as to why only four media houses were given the proverbial green light to attend the President’s interview.
Ragubhir responded in the positive and she explained that, “I did enquire of Ms Ariana Gordon late Saturday night when I was informed that my request was finally being granted. Her response was that there have been a lot of requests for interviews and the President is granting them in order as most importantly as he finds the time.”
The GPA President further shared that on Sunday she made a second inquiry with Gordon for the unit’s decision to only allow four media houses at the interview. She was informed by Gordon that the President will be providing other interviews as his schedule provides.
Notably, President Granger, on numerous occasions, has been admonished by members of the media, including Raghubir at one point, for his limited engagements with the press. In 2018 this publication highlighted that after assuming office, President Granger had only conducted two press conferences in three years.
Even after official trips overseas, and numerous official engagements, the President had not faced the nation, opting to use the Department of Public Information (DPI) for the release of information. However, DPI releases leave no room for questions from the press.
In late 2019, Leader of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo, chided the President for infrequent press conferences. For 2020, President Granger has conducted only one media engagement, but in a very controlled environment, which dates back to May 17th at the National Aquatic Centre in Liliendaal during his visit to the Arthur Chung Convention Centre (ACCC). In that engagement, questions were limited to one per media entity, he refused to answer several questions posed to him, and left the venue after only twenty minutes. His first one hour interview with Benschop was given the next day.
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