Latest update May 31st, 2023 3:04 PM
May 12, 2023 Features / Columnists, News, Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News- The forthcoming election of the executive of the Guyana Press Association is being held under a cloud of suspicion. Unless, there is an attempt in the remaining few days before the elections to forge a consensus part forward, any outcome in which the GPA is divided along partisan lines will compound the historic divisions within the local media.
The Guyana media has historically been a divided house. The divisions have mainly been along political lines. While there are some class divisions within the media, this aspect has never affected professionalism to the extent in which partisan divisions have undermined professional standards.
Guyana has always produced capable journalists and editors. But many of them have been infected by partisan and at times the racial bug and that has undermined objectivity and fairness. But the greatest tragedy of this aspect has been that the one most guilty of these misdeeds have been some of our more senior journalists. The bias and one-sidedness of some of Guyana’s senior media operatives have been galling.
Elements within the media played no small part in the violence which engulfed Guyana from 1997 to 2008. Almost on a daily basis, media operatives were there stirring the cauldron of hatred and animosity, spreading misinformation and inciting rebellion. In one instance, a senior media operative was in a large group of protestors who began to stone the home of the now Speaker of the National Assembly who was then an Opposition Leader. That media person did not condemn or say anything about what he witnessed.
But this was not a new development. From the 1960’s onwards to the second decade of the 21st century, the local media was complicit in the country’s political tragedy and the ensuing violence. Even during the 2020 general and regional elections, there were elements within the media, who instead of taking an independent and professional line, were guilty of acting in a partisan and unprofessional manner.
But the 2020 elections did throw up a ray of hope. A new generation of journalists had emerged and they were aghast at what they saw happening. The more youthful members of the media saw first-hand what they had only read about: they saw an attempt to rig the elections and they were in front seat observing while all of this was happening. It was an awakening for them.
Many of them took a principled and professional position. So aghast they were about what was taking place that they began to expose what was happening. Their professionalism offered real hope for the future of journalism in Guyana.
But the PPPC dashed those hopes. When it was finally sworn-in to office it launched a campaign to woo members of the media away from this newspaper. It was successful in attracting some persons. This policy has affected the independent media. This deliberate attempt to dominate and control the media is behind some of the suspicions voiced about the government’s agenda in respect to the forthcoming election of the GPA’s executive.
The GPA has accused the government of wanting to establish an independent media association. They government, in turn, has not hidden its disaffection with the criticisms vented by the GPA and has not ruled out the formation of a parallel GPA.
This is the cloud of divisiveness which hands over this weekend’s election. And it is not healthy for the media. Just at a time when there were promising sign that the fraternity was becoming more independent and less partisan this controversy threatens to split the press.
Further suspicion has been case over the elections. A major source of contention has been concerns about the non-availability of the list of persons eligible to vote. And the GPA has added fuel to the fire by indicating that there was recently a membership drive, an issue that is bound to raise concerns about threats to the freeness of the poll.
Based on comments from the GPA, there appears in the past to be a reluctance to accept content providers from social media as legitimate journalists. The Constitution of the GPA has a limited definition of journalists, circumscribing them to those involved in gathering, editing, presenting and commenting on “information and events and editorial policy-direction of the content of newspapers, magazines, press or syndicated services, professional or business publications, radio, television, cinema and the teaching of journalism”
As can be seen social media is excluded but not professional and business publications. As such, it is left to be seen from whence the new voting members of the GPA are drawn.
The concerns now being expressed about the non-publication of those eligible to vote are not immaterial. They have the potential to further divide the media fraternity and thus undermine press freedom.
In such a scenario of a divided media, whoever wins the elections, the media will lose. As such consideration should be given even at this late hour to having a consensus candidate as President.
Unity should be of the utmost importance. Whoever is chosen as this candidate should be someone who enjoys the respect and support of all factions within the media.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kaieteur News.
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