The rush to condemn

Guyana Chronicle
September 19, 2003

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THOSE of us who watch Wild Discovery are familiar with the saga. But for the resilience of the targeted prey, it is destined to succumb to the frightening approach of a desperate predator whose survival is sorely dependent on the kill ahead.

Sounds crude. But the analogy epitomizes the strategy that some groups or individuals use to get traction against their opponents.

We saw that displayed with unbridled haste earlier this week when some media practitioners identified a draft report on Guyana by World Bank consultants as a document of and released by the World Bank.

That the contents of the consultants' draft report reflected information accumulated from the opposition isn't the point here. In fact, the report could not be considered to be complete unless it underscored the perspectives of the opposition.

But the reverse is also very true. As the World Bank itself said in a brief statement on Wednesday, it is standard practice to finalize its report on a country using comments "from the government and others" - not from the Government's rivals only.

The media practitioners, who rushed to quote the draft report's leveling of blame on the government for failures in governance, donor finance spending, etc., apparently weren't conscious of this standard report preparation format by the Bank - or didn't think it made much of a difference.

One newspaper titled its main front-page story, "World Bank says..." and another editorialized the draft as "a report" coming "from the World Bank..." And as we noted yesterday, a response on the draft by Finance Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar was reported by a medium as a comment being made on the "World Bank review..."

Our mention of these reports doesn't mean that we can cast the first stone. This isn't a comment about perfection. We aren't perfect, either. We bring it up merely to underscore the vital role we play, as agents of social change, in helping to move our country forward.

Guyanese are emerging from an era in which media operatives fueled grassroots animosity with anti-government rhetoric that an Independent Media Monitoring and Refereeing Panel in February 2001 said "produced a free-for-all with very disturbing consequences for credibility, respect, decency and fair play."

Fired by their virtual hatred for the ruling party and allegiance to the opposition, or simply their rush to condemn, they ignored the bigger picture and the national interest, preferring "often superficial treatment of stories and a failure, over time, to get all sides of an issue."

One of the bitter lessons we have learned over the years is that the media, like disputants, often fail to recognize or ignore the fact that some options can cause people to pursue confrontation strategies.

For example, people may pursue violent strategies, when non-violent action might be more effective, simply by reading or listening to stories we carry that bear little resemblance to reality.

We think that the media, ourselves included, ought to take a cue from the agreements that President Jagdeo and Mr. Corbin reache in their on-going dialogue, and find ways to help people fully realize their abilities, advance their interests and thus move their country forward.

Sounds crude. But
A DRAFT report on Guyana prepared by a team of World Bank consultants blames much of the country's woes on poor governance - and some media houses have quoted the draft as if it were final and therefore an indictment on the Government by the World Bank.

But the Washington-based donor agency made it clear yesterday that the report, Guyana Development Policy Review: The Challenges of Governance and Growth, was not the final thing.

"We wish to make it clear that this is a draft report," the World Bank said in a brief statement yesterday. "We have received comments from the Government and others on the report and, as is the normal practice, we are currently in the process of integrating these comments (from the Government and others) into the report."