Kaieteur News – No person in this entire world who is sane will say that the New York Times (NYT) supports the Russian war in the Ukraine. It does not. Its daily journalism is against the war. But it was the same newspaper joined by all the major global media houses that informed the world that the US is providing intelligence to the Ukrainian government that is helping the Ukrainians on the battlefield.
The U.S government had denied it. Why did the NYT report on such a situation that the US government found it necessary to deny? Because the NYT stumbled on a story that is newsworthy and that people ought to know about. We don’t have that kind of independent journalism.
What we have is civil society, journalistic society, business society, and people who proclaim that they are independent taking sides along the ethnic and political divide. The journalists in Guyana are either pro-government or anti-government.
The caricature comes about when the pro-government journalists stay quiet and the anti-government journalists come out swinging saying that they are credible and the president, his ministers and his state sector managers must provide them with answers upon request.
I have seen three prominent persons on different Zoom programmes made the point that even civil society is divided politically. Important to note is that not one of the three has a working relation with or voices support for the ruling party. They are Nigel Hughes, Timothy Jonas and Dr. Floyd Haynes.
The importance of this statement is that credibility becomes the crucial issue. And the Guyana Press Association had credibility in mind when its president uttered these words at the recently concluded government sponsored media symposium: “If politicians across the divide claim to have any modicum of interest in improving the standard of journalism, then they ought to immediately cease utilising social media influencers in the place of journalists.”
The standard of journalism is not the issue. It is the credibility of journalism. Standards can be improved by doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, teachers, etc, but at the end of the day, the question is, does society see them as credible performers?
It is not only civil society that is divided politically but so is the journalistic community. During the five months of election rigging, there was an incident on the balcony of the High Court when one of the opposition leaders, Timothy Jonas refused to answer a question from the journalist, Gordon Mosley. Jonas told Moseley he was not speaking to him because he will not put correctly what he, Jonas, had to say.
It became a hot topic of social media. I supported the position of Jonas because my experience of 34 years in the media tells me that the media fraternity is divided politically and credibility becomes a paramount issue. Let us offer some examples then we will contextualise the credibility issue using the Sisyphean task to explain.
One online media outfit has a columnist that offers opinions. This person is inflexibly anti-government. There is no attempt to offer an independent person or a pro-government personality space to offer an alternative viewpoint. Another online outfit seeks the reactions from political observers on crucial developments in the society. Every one of those opinion-makers is anti-government.
Here are more shocking examples where in Guyana’s journalism credibility is called into question. Another media house continues to argue for a highly placed leader in the opposition APNU+AFC outfit to be retained as the CEO of one of the most important public institutions in this country.
When you think that argument is done from a principled position, this very media house argued that no one from the Private Sector Commission (PSC) should be on the board of the National Resource Fund because the PSC is close to the government. Lack of credibility in Guyana’s journalism cannot be more sickening than this.
Two more examples should suffice. A well known citizen, before the court for criminal assault, made waves during the five months of attempted rigging. He called upon President Granger to cancel the election and suspend GECOM. This same media house gave this person huge coverage to speak on the role of civil society in holding government accountable. A one-man army posing as a national organisation is given widespread coverage in the press.
We come now to the Sisyphean task. What you are about to read is what I have articulated on countless occasions in my media career. Critics of the government, certain national organisations, certain media workers, are not going to succeed in getting the corridors of power to listen to them, to persuade the state to change an undesirable direction because state actors think they are not credible, independent and fair-minded.
(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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