Kaieteur News – The media has a duty to cover and to report matters of public interest. But the media must do so within the confines of the law.
At present, there are regulations governing the number of persons who can assemble for an event. The COVID-19 restrictions issued by the government and published in the Official Gazette of September 30, 2020 prohibits persons from attending social gatherings, and where there is an exception, it shall not involve more than 10 persons. Places of worship are permitted to have services up to 25 percent capacity and may have services 45 minutes apart.
There is no stated exemption given to the government from these provisions. It would therefore appear as if the government is breaching its own regulations because it has consistently, during October, held meetings and events, which are attended by far more than 10 persons. In fact, there was one housing event at the National Stadium in which thousands of persons attended. And they will continue to do so for the remainder of the month.
Government is considered as an essential service. But this surely cannot relate to public activities hosted by the government. If the government keeps a meeting with residents of an area and more than 10 persons attend, surely this sort of outreach cannot be exempted from the COVID-19 regulations.
There is nothing which suggests that a government event is exempted from the restrictions which either prohibit social gatherings or limit it to 10 persons. But even if a government activity is not considered a social event, the government can be considered as acting irresponsibly if it goes ahead and organizes events which bring more than 10 persons together.
In a pandemic, the government has an obligation to act responsibly. And so too does the media.
The media have continued to attend these events despite these activities being in violation of the very regulations which are published by government. And so the government is being asked ‘how it is that such events can be held when they clearly are intended for more than 10 persons?’
It does not matter if social distancing is practised. If the law states that social gatherings are restricted until the end of October, it is not proper for such events to be hosted and to do so by the government really makes a mockery of the social restrictions which were published in the gazette.
The country is in the middle of a pandemic and the media have to take a stand. It should not be participating in any activity in which the regulations are being flouted by others. It is understood that the media have an obligation to report on matters of public interest but in doing so, it should at the minimum point out where certain activities and events hosted by the government are in clear violation of the very restrictions which were published in the Official Gazette.
No government should be proud of having one law for the rest of the country and another law for government. It is simply a transgression of good governance for this to be happening
The media have, on occasion, been pointing out instances in which the COVID-19 restrictions are being violated. When, for example, a section of the media points out that only one in every 10 persons at a certain location is wearing a mask, the media is doing its work and pointing out a violation.
And similarly, if it attends a government event and notices that the social restrictions are being breached, the media has a duty to point out both to the public and to the government itself that the law is being breached.
And if these breaches continue or the law is not amended accordingly, the media should do the next best thing. It should not attend such events since it should not wish to be seen as being part of an activity which openly flouts the law.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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