Opinion, commentary in state media's news

Stabroek News
February 6, 2001

The Election Commission's Media Monitoring Unit, in its second report continues to question the presentation of news on the state media.

The just released report on media coverage of election issues from January 14 to 27, notes as most "disturbing the several instances when the objectivity of news programmes on state media, especially GTV 11 appears compromised by the insertion of opinion and commentary into what is purported to be news. GTV is hardly alone, however, in exhibiting behaviour that should be examined in the light of the responsibilities expressed in the Media Code of Conduct."

The MMU cites coverage of the January 15, decision in the election petition by the Guyana Chronicle and states: "It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Chronicle was reporting the news in a way that defended the attitude of the PPP government as much as possible under the circumstances."

GTV 11 also came in for criticism for a January 16, newscast where it was observed by the news anchor that "...Shaik Baksh deserves a great deal of praise." The MMU writes: "It is both remarkable and disturbing that a news programme contains instructions to the viewers as to how they should react to activities of the government. Guyanese citizens are capable of forming their own opinions about it."

While having concerns about the private media, the MMU observes that state media as public entities must be held to the highest standards of fairness, objectivity and balance.

Government in a democracy is by definition derived from the people, so the state media are the property of the citizens. "These outlets have a very important obligation to provide citizens with the most objective and balanced coverage regardless of what party is in power at the moment... no ruling government ought to use state owned or state controlled media to advance its partisan interests," the report said.

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