Muzzled Media and Backtracking

Over the past week Guyana’s media corps – well some of it – has been fuming over reports that the Prime Minister’s Office will overlook the daily headlines of the Guyana Chronicle – a claim which has been sternly denied by the Office of the Prime Minister.

This of course, according to the report will be done under the ambit of the Director of Public Information. The fuming from the media corps, and some outside, is because many of us seeing a change in government never expected the autocratic behavior from the new administration.

All of this was precipitated by the Prime Minister himself declaring that the Guyana Chronicle is the “government’s media” and not state media. Shocking right? Yes? No? Yes? Okay, then we’re on the same page.

In this context, it would mean that the Guyana Power and Light is the government’s light company, Guyana Water Incorporated is the Government’s water company and GuySuCo is also the government’s company – get the point I’m making? Chronicle does not belong to the government.

It belongs to the State and unless there is a pellucid differentiation between state-owned and government owned; then I am afraid some dark days are ahead for the media fraternity in Guyana. Perhaps what angered some of us the most is the appearance of a letter from the Director of Public Information in the Guyana Chronicle on Sunday August 30 titled the “PPP’s obsession with Moses Nagamootoo.”

I’m sorry did I say letter? My most humble apologies. What I meant to say was an article. Yes, an article written by the Director of Public Information in the Guyana Chronicle. Is that even allowed? Is the DPI an employee of the State or of Guyana Chronicle? Doesn’t this attribute to a conflict of interest? A political appointee in a post? I was dumbfounded. I had no words. Where does one draw the line? Is there even a line anymore? The question is even more important given that the letter was basically the DPI trash talking the Opposition PPP.

This is happening now when just last year Former Opposition Leader and now President of Guyana had stated that “the time has long passed for the government to relax its control…we should have more radio stations and the government should desist from controlling information released in the state media.”

Why the sudden change in stance? Was this just a typical case of politicians saying what the people want to hear?

It is a widely accepted fact that heavy government interference is a sign of poor democracy; take Venezuela for example, the control on state media is rampant. Is democracy alive in that state? I think not.

In a recent Chronicle editorial, it was stated that “Our newspaper is owned by the State and is therefore expected to editorially support the thrust of the government of the day. The government then has a right to set out the broad parameters within which the newspaper operates…”

That I wholeheartedly agree with; what I don’t however agree with is the government interfering with the day to day affairs of Guyana Chronicle.

But take into context the broad parameters, which seem to be very narrow from where I’m standing. Forgive me. I have clinical myopia, let me get my glasses…yep, it still seems pretty damn narrow to me.

The government keeps stating that it expects the media to be fair and it is looking towards the development of a a media policy?

Really? Dear Government – the media is self regulated and it should always be

When the former Attorney General Anil Nandall had proposed a policy to “watch the watchdog” it was sternly rejected and the argument was that it borders on censorship. The argument remains the same regardless of which administration adumbrates the policy.

“The free press is as vital to a country as the air we breathe and any attempt to muzzle it must be resisted…as far as I know you cannot issue regulations for journalists.” – Moses Nagamootoo, May 2014.

Fast forward to 2015 with Nagamootoo as Prime Minister – The Minister of State Joseph Harmon is touting a media policy. What do we call this? 

We do not wish to be controlled by thee. Ironically, I will end by quoting Moses “Let my people go!”

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