Guyana Press Association

Stabroek News
November 29, 2000

The revival of the Guyana Press Association with fresh elections last Sunday is to be welcomed. For years it had to all intents and purposes ceased to function, taking no position on the many topical issues that concerned the media ranging from assaults on media personnel or their equipment, to the exclusion of journalists from covering the meetings of certain bodies, to the appalling lack of professionalism or any pretence thereof on some television programmes.

Mr Adam Harris and his team, some of whom were part of the previous executive, have a major task ahead of them. They should, as Mr Hugh Cholmondeley suggested, quickly develop a short term agenda and a medium term agenda. On the short term agenda would be their support for the implementation of the principles in the Media Code and Guidelines recently agreed at roundtable conferences, designed to ensure responsible coverage of the coming elections campaign. The panel to monitor the code and guidelines should be appointed in the next few weeks. In the meantime, however, the members of the new executive, many of whom participated prominently in the roundtable discussion, may wish to publicly support and participate in the promulgation of those principles.

There will be strong media support for an active and hard working association that takes on board the various issues facing the media and takes principled public stands on these issues. This newspaper will be seeking the support of the association on at least one issue involving the exclusion of our reporter from covering the proceedings of the New Amsterdam Town Council and there will no doubt be other media that will solicit their support. For too long, the media have had no collective, institutional voice and the efforts of the new executive to make their mark will be keenly anticipated.

Above all, however, the main task facing the new association is to seek to inculcate, both by precept and example, a spirit of professionalism in media practitioners that is now sorely lacking in many areas, particularly on television, which is relatively new. Journalism is a job but it is also a profession. Responsible practitioners believe that they are required to carry out their job in a certain way and according to certain well recognised principles, that they must report fairly and objectively, and that they must not disseminate inflammatory rumours that can lead to violence and bloodshed, or indulge in character assassination. The new executive must lead the way.

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