A TESTIMONY TO GUYANA’S FREE MEDIA
May 31, 2004
(The following are excerpts of REMARKS BY ROBERT PERSAUD, INFORMATION LIAISON TO THE PRESIDENT AND HEAD OF GINA AT THE LAUNCHING OF NEWS ALERT)
It is always with much pleasure that I come to a function such as this: the launching of another news organization.
Some of us here have been in the news media for perhaps several years. Some more years than we would care to remember and I hear the old hats say that there is a certain bug that gets one quite early in the game, and a news person remains a news person for life, even though he might branch off into some new endeavour.
For myself, perhaps a relative newcomer to the arena, and that combative word, arena, is used advisedly, I am thrilled at the idea of yet another newscast joining the fray, adding to the already impressive march of anchors and reporters and pictures that spill into our sitting rooms each night, each promoting its own brand of journalism, and seeking to sway its viewers in one direction or another.
The Government is convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt that freedom of the press is one of the major pillars of a democracy, and so in Guyana, this is being promoted and will continue to be promoted to the utmost, as far, that is, as our circumstances allow. Today’s development is testimony to the vibrant free media we have in Guyana.
That this newscast is intended to provide more news and information to the hinterland is significant. There seems to be a growing trend to focus more news coverage and reportage on rural and hinterland communities. This is a healthy trend. For too long, remote communities felt only Georgetown and its environs mattered in the world of news. The government through the state-owned media outfits has been seeking to provide information and news to these communities in a timely manner and to educate the coastal communities as to the development going on in rural and hinterland areas. And then there is National Communications Network Radio with its short wave transmission that reaches into the Hinterland. In addition, in Region Nine, Radio Paiwomak provides information to those far-flung communities. This will continue and is a major component of the merged State radio and television entities – National Communication Network.
The Government Information Agency (GINA) has also been supporting this effort in collaboration with both state and private media houses. For example, on a weekly basis, television materials are circulated to all outfits. This is supplemented with GINA’s Development Digest and Hinterland Highlights. The Hinterland Highlights aimed mainly at our indigenous communities, are really monthly bulletins that encapsulate the more important happenings in our country. They are distributed countrywide free and they are intended to keep Guyanese living away from the coastal belt up-to-date about national developments.
As News Alert is officially launched, it would be timely to remind ourselves of the need for news reports to be objective and fair, with as little bias as possible, mindful of the multi-religious and multi-ethnic society that is ours, and of the imperative to present the news of the day with good taste.
Someone once said that journalism largely consists in saying “Tom Jones is dead”, and saying this to people who never knew that Tom Jones was alive. Of course many of those who watch News Alert will know that Tom Jones was alive, though they might not be aware of much of his curriculum vitae.
News Alert must keep this in mind when presenting reports, so as not to misrepresent the news to its viewership that is at variance with what really is, and to present what is with sincerity and honesty.
On behalf of the Government, I wish News Alert and its producer Rawle Nelson well and look forward to a rewarding partnership between this newscast and the Government Information Agency.