In­for­ma­tion deficit in state me­dia

Weekend Mirror - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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