Press body slams President's verbal assault on media
March 11, 2007
In the wake of President Bharrat Jagdeo's stinging attack on local journalists, the Guyana Press Association calls on him to take the necessary steps to salvage his rapidly deteriorating relationship with the media that threatens to rattle the bedrock of Guyana's evolving democracy.
Condemning the Presi-dent's attack, the GPA said, it is unfortunate that he chose to berate the media last Thursday at the opening of the Guyana Defence Force Annual Conference rather than address pertinent national security issues like the missing AK-47 assault rifles and the prolonged delay in the promotion of GDF officers.
"His attacks are exemplified by his unprecedented exclusion from the officers' conferences of the 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 stated.
According to the body, based on material at its disposal, the President said nothing that was classified at last year's conferences that he would have preferred not to be published. It noted that during last year Jagdeo was evidently evading the local media at the height of a controversy over the alleged wire-tapping of the then police commissioner, Winston Felix's telephone, while talking to media in North America about the identical issue.
GPA said the President 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. Clearly this, select group of ministers recognises when not to take example from leadership."
The association said it rejects categorically any unconstructive and irresponsible blame or aspersions on the quality of the media corps' work, whether state or privately-owned, based on deficiencies real or perceived by the administration.
It said the President's ill-founded perception is perhaps 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.
Further, GPA said it salutes the brave, young and enterprising members of the media corps who continue to stand the test of time and perform to their best, in the circumstances, to ensure that the nation is informed.
The association also questioned what can be more lazy and lethargic than the failure of the government to make good on its repeated promises to liberalise the radio broadcasting spectrum, and modernise copyright and intellectual property laws.