Behind closed doors

Guyana Chronicle
April 12, 2000

EVERYONE has the right to invite the media in to report on their business or to ask them to stay out when they are discussing sensitive affairs.

It's usually their call.

The statutory meetings of the Mayor and City Council are usually open to the media and that's how citizens of the capital city and others get regular accounts of what the goodly gentlemen and ladies running their affairs are up to.

Those regular statutory meetings sometimes provide comic relief for citizens when the worthies inside the imposing City Hall chamber choose to indulge in silly antics. But they are not alone in that habit as sometimes their bigger counterparts in the even more imposing chamber of the National Assembly around the corner often try to outdo them in antics.

The City fathers and mothers have at times complained about what they call unfair media reporting but there has not been much of this of late.

So reporters assigned to cover the regular statutory meeting Monday were more than a little surprised when they were barred from staying to report on the goings-on.

The council members, in their wisdom, decided to have the statutory meeting in private as the 2000 budget estimates were presented.

As we reported yesterday, Mayor, Mr Hamilton Green, fresh out of hospital after an operation on his big toes, made the suggestion that the meeting be closed to the public. He said the media should also be excluded since he did not want any of the discussions to be misconstrued or misreported.

Councillors did not object.

Media representatives there complained of being used conveniently.

And they had a right.

Our reporter noted that Mr Green and the rest of the City Council's administration had, prior to this meeting, trusted the media to report their disappointments with the government and lamentations about scarce revenue.

The media were used extensively to highlight the government's alleged non-payment of rates and taxes and proposals to shut or reduce certain critical services in the city.

Some of these views were reiterated twice recently when two press conferences were held in one week to make the same lamentations, our reporter pointed out.

We wish Mayor Green a speedy recovery from the operation on his toes but we cannot sympathise with his suggestion that the media be excluded from the meeting in question because he did not want any of the discussions to be misconstrued or misreported.

He did not have such reservations when he and his band were reporting their disappointments with the government and their lamentations about scarce revenue.

The media have reported faithfully before on discussions about the council's budget estimates, so what was so special about this Monday meeting?

Council meetings are not closed to the public, like Cabinet meetings are, and City Hall is not in the habit of turning away the media from their meetings that are supposed to be open.

So what's the fuss about this time?

We, like citizens, are awaiting an explanation.