Two of your Sunday columnists have ended their columns with KN citing interference with their viewpoints. Guyanese who I conversed with say the two columnists got away with more than what other media house would tolerate in terms of objectivity. They are viewed as cheerleaders of the coalition on the outcome of the election. Readers say KN was generous with its tolerance of their biased commentaries to excuse electoral fraud. People generally find KN to be fair, impartial, balanced, and objective in media operations.
I have been writing for papers since 1977 and engaged the media in the student dissension on the Corentyne in 1976. I also wrote for and helped edited student newspapers at City College; Dr. Baytoram Ramharack and I wrote pieces for student papers and we also wrote columns and edited newsletters and newspapers pertaining to Guyana. In my professional opinion, with some 44 years experience in the media, I find KN gave very balanced coverage in the 2020 election including on the struggle to respect the outcome of the recount. The paper allowed both sides to present their viewpoints on the recount, the court matter, and shared governance.
My studies of the media reveal that writers are guided by management, which does not want to land into trouble with the law; KN was the party to several frivolous lawsuits. Writers cannot write anything they wish and or allow their political affiliation to interfere with professionalism. Their writings must fall within some guidelines that do not violate editorial policy, is biased against a side, threaten peace and stability, and or violate the law, et al.
One of the main complaints against the resigned columnists is objection to their defense of the APNU-led coalition on the issue of electoral fraud to remain in office. Writers cannot and must not defend fraud and not expected to “be spoken to” or “corrected” by management. In any media, management is accountable to public readership or “viewership” to disallow defense or excuse of fraud or some other negative attribute like racism, misogyny, etc.
I travel extensively around the globe for research and tourism interest. I read KN and the other papers daily. Anyone overseas who follows issues on Guyana reads KN. Almost everyone I interacted with reads KN. It is also cited extensively in research including in doctoral studies I did in economics, politics, sociology, history and other subjects. KN is indisputably the most read newspaper in Guyana. Anyone who feels otherwise don’t really interact with people on the ground. And in terms of readership, Freddie is the most read columnist in the country and in the diaspora and people consider him the most courageous writer, not afraid of government consequences for his viewpoint which are almost always spot on. And no one can justifiably accuse KN of bias or censorship. (At one time, my writings were not carried because of personality of a letter editor rather than on issue; the publisher fixed that problem and I have no reason to believe that he would censor anyone’s view that is within the ambit of the law and that does not attack people or spread falsehoods). I note that the two columnists have not claimed management terminated their columns; Chronicle terminated their columns for critiquing the government – the first time for Guyana since Burnham imposed press censorship in the early 1970s.
As some with long years of experience in the media, writers generally tend to be free to have political association and to pen viewpoints even in support of a party, but bias in their outpourings must not be obvious. Writers must be fair and objective and support arguments with credible evidence. Out of self-respect and dignity, columnists should try to maintain some kind of impartiality and objectivity and respect management on issues of professionalism. One cannot blatantly defend fraud so that one’s party can remain in office. The two resigned columnists never once condemned the electoral fraud of Mingo or Lowenfield while the rest of the world did.
As I understand from the readings of reports and editorials, the position of KN management is neutrality, which aims to protect the credibility of the publication. Columnists must adhere to this basic principle. In poring over the columns of the two resigned columnists, it would be a stretch of credibility to say that they were impartial, objective, and unbiased. In fact, they openly supported the ruling coalition and the Mingo and Lowenfield electoral fraud.
The two columnists complained that KN seems to be taking a pro-PPP position on electoral fraud. Exposing or condemning electoral fraud is not about being pro-PPP or anti-APNU. Fraud is wrong and is a violation of human and civil rights. It is expected that every media and columnist would condemn fraud. In fact, the three independent newspapers and other media practitioners in Guyana condemned the fraud. All credible commentators, and this writer, condemned the fraud and called for the respect of the will of the electorate. All the media around the Caribbean region and around the globe condemned the fraud. International and domestic observers condemned the fraud. So KN is not being biased or pro-PPP in reporting, exposing, and editorializing on the fraud. In fact, people around the globe praise KN for its reports on the election fraud.
If one goes back to reports during the months-long election campaign, KN hardly gave coverage to it and readers were disappointed because they had expected more reportage. Unlike during the 2015 election campaign, when the paper appeared biased towards APNU, there was a turnaround in 2020 when KN was totally neutral and impartial in election reports, coverage, and editorializing. In fact, PPP supporters felt KN was giving more space to the coalition.
As I detected in my analysis, KN’s interest in the election was piqued after the Mingo fraud of March 6. Democracy was at stake and readers expected that no media would be an uninterested observer or not take a side. The media had to take a position in defense of the ballot. It seems to me that the KN position was no different from the other two private owned newspapers and broadcasting media. All three papers exposed the fraud and reported on the views of people from around the globe.
The public deserves factual reporting and informed analysis with unbiased, credible opinions, not propaganda. One’s personal bias should not influence commentary. Guyanese who I conversed with thank KN for impartiality and professionalism.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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