Guyana Press Association lashes out at President Jagdeo's attacks on media

Kaieteur News
March 12, 2007

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“Take the necessary steps to salvage what is obviously a rapidly deteriorating relationship with the media, the Fourth Estate that threatens to rattle the bedrock of our evolving democracy.” This is the Guyana Press Association's reaction to President Bharrat Jagdeo's in the face of his (the President's) recent statements at the opening of the GDF officers' conference.

President Jagdeo had described the local media as being lazy. His comments were prompted by the inability of the local media to question or to investigate reports issued by the various entities that seek to be critical of Guyana .

Recently, the US State Department issued its ‘drug' report. President Jagdeo contended that the local press simply repeated what was published without question.

The GPA described the President's statements as an “entirely unwarranted attack” on the local media corps and issued strong condemnation.

In a release, GPA dubbed the Head of State's attitude towards the media as “unsavory”, even more so since the nation's image on the international scene is of concern to the President. The President's attitude “contributes to the existing injury and pain of the image of Guyana , locally and internationally,” according to the GPA.

Whether state or privately-owned, based on deficiencies real or perceived by the administration, the GPA stated that it further rejects “any unconstructive and irresponsible blame or aspersions on the quality of the media corps' work.

“His attacks are exemplified by his unprecedented exclusion from the officers' conferences of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force last year, verbal salvoes on the privately-owned Stabroek News that appeared to have culminated with the withdrawal of Government advertisements from that newspaper, and last Thursday's description of sections of the media as ‘lazy.'”

The GPA states that “based on material at our disposal, the President said nothing that was classified at last year's conferences.”

Describing last Thursdays “attack” on the media as “unfortunate”, the GPA posits that “the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces should have used the forum to address pertinent National Security issues like the missing AK-47 assault rifles and the prolonged delay in the promotion of GDF officers.”

The GPA further reflected that during last year too “he (the President) was evidently evading the local media at the height of a controversy over the alleged wire-tap of the then Police Commissioner, Winston Felix's telephone, while talking to media in North America about the identical issue.”

The President, GPA says, “must note that his demeaning posture towards the media is at variance with most of his Ministers, who are accessible, courteous and fair to reporters, thus affording balanced and accurate reporting… this select group of Ministers recognises when not to take example from leadership.” The Press association also states that, “had the President any competent Public Affairs advisor, he would have recognised the value and importance of the tenets of journalism to repetition and un-newsworthiness.

“For instance, while it is ideal for all sides to be included in one news item, these tenets are also achievable through subsequent news items immediately after the first news item. The President, whose area of specialty is economics, cannot accurately construe this as laziness.

“Perhaps,” the GPA added, “the President's ill-founded perception is rooted in the fact that past and previous administrations, including his, have continued to frustrate experienced and competent media professionals to migrate from the media or the country, leaving very few to mentor new entrants.

“A major contributory factor to this phenomenon continues to be the inane desire of successive administrations to treat the state-owned media as their personal fiefdom of the government and the governing party.

“What can be more ‘lazy' and lethargic than the failure of the government to make good on its repeated promises to liberalize the radio broadcasting spectrum, and modern copyright and intellectual property laws?

“Had the necessary positive actions been taken in this regard, the media would have been better poised to produce high-quality content for local, regional and even international audiences.

“Sadly lacking are freedom of information and freedom of the media laws.”

The GPA further opined that, “due to the inaction or ‘lazy' approach of the government, we are now a ‘satellite' state, whose unique social, cultural and other features are being constantly eroded to nothingness by an inundation of foreign programming and other material.”