Information deficit in state media
statements by President David Granger confirm strongly held view that the government will not engage media operators in Guyana to discuss their concerns over the recently passed amendments to the country’s broadcast legislation in the National Assembly.
Amidst widespread condemnation of some of the more markedly obnoxious aspects of the new legislation by local and international media organizations, and calls for the president to hold making them into law to allow consultations, Granger last week said he will go ahead.
The blunt refusal by the government to hold consultations with stakeholders on matters of national importance, be it policies, legislation etc., is becoming a characteristic of the coalition’s style in office.
In the process the government has found itself jumping into hot waters at every turn. Since taking office, the coalition has ventured into ill-advised projects and policies, most of them turning out to be scandalous. In many instances, the government’s actions were manifestly in collision with the country’s constitution and laws. Yet, the government continues to govern as if there is no Constitution and no law and behaving as if it is a law unto itself.
The usual reaction of the government to criticisms of policies is it is going ahead because government thinks it’s the right thing to do, so there is no need for consultations.
The President’s position on the GECOM saga is a case in point. He refused to select a name from two lists submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, for the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, because the nominees do not fit the qualifications needed in accordance with his understanding of the constitutional requirements.
The President was warned that his view or the advice being given to him on the matter was not the correct one. A zealous citizen was ready to test the President’s acuity and asked the judiciary to interpret the Constitution in order to resolve the matter and move forward to put a GECOM Chairman in place.
The Court found that the President’s position on the matter was baseless. However, the President said afterwards that he was still of the same opinion. In other words he is not prepared to accept the position of the country’s Courts. He has been severely criticized for this and it remains to be seen how he will treat the third list to be submitted by the Opposition Leader, who is currently engaged in consultations with civil society on the matter.
Another faux pas is in the making and this relates to the passing of controversial broadcast legislation which seems to be opposed by all and sundry. As usual, there is the bungling and different positions taken on the matter, depending who is speaking. A sore point is the requirement for all privately-owned broadcast operators to carry, free of cost, one hour of government-sponsored programmes.
Firstly, Minister Joseph Harmon said the proposed legislation was intended to dismantle some imagined strangle-hold of the media by the opposition. Later, the President said the law was intended to deal what he termed an “information deficit”.
This is just a smokescreen. The government wants to use the private media houses to carry government propaganda on a daily basis.
The APNU/AFC is in full control of the state media which is fully under government control. Since taking office, it has shown absolutely no inclination to have balanced coverage in these mediums owned by the people.
While in opposition, the APNU/AFC, had advocated the selling of its Radio, TV and newspaper assets. At one time it blocked budgetary allocations to the government information agency, including salaries for employees.
Now, instead, the government has tightened its grip on these mediums and putting in positions persons affiliated to the old PNC. The state media is being mis-used and Guyanese are robbed of much needed views outside of those provided by the government. In the state media, there exists a tremendous “information deficit.”
The bad press the government is getting is of its own making by its daily blunders, incompetence, corruption, scandals, etc. No amount of government propaganda can hide that fact. The “information deficit” will continue as long as the government’s business is not transparent and things are done secretly.