Bulkan denies censorship claims

…says he was victim of editorial discretion

Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan is refuting suggestions that he has been attempting to censor the State-owned Guyana Chronicle. Bulkan stated that the Guyana Press Association (GPA), which was critical of a letter to the editor he wrote to the Chronicle, missed the point of his letter.

Communities Minister
Ronald Bulkan

The furore arose over his letter to the editor published on April 3, which remonstrated with the newspaper for giving prominence to an article on oil and gas. He had contended that enough prominence was not given to an article on the swearing-in of Mayors and Deputy Mayors.

According to the Minister in an interview on Tuesday, the letter he wrote to the newspaper was merely a cautionary expression of his opinion that more prominence should be given to current, national issues.

“I think they missed the point entirely about the letter I wrote to the Chronicle. My letter may have referred to placement of articles, but I think an objective reading of my letter would show that the central point I was trying to raise is to caution against us getting carried away by the prospect of oil revenue…I did not seek to dictate to the Chronicle. I just sought to provide an opinion.”

He also said that the letter’s headline “Your lead story should have been the swearing-in of the mayors and deputy mayors”, made him the “victim” of editorial discretion.

“I was also victim of editorial discretion. Because the editor, when carrying my letter, had also prejudiced himself by the title he gave to my letter. So, it was nothing about being disappointed by not giving coverage to my ministry, as the editor and other commentators sought to make [out],” the Minister added.

Bulkan, in the letter, had expressed concern over the newspaper not giving enough prominence to the article on the swearing-in of Mayors and Deputy Mayors.

He had stated in his letter to the Guyana Chronicle that “in your issue of 2017, 03, 3, you reported on the above activity, but relegated it to page eight…”

“Your front page is dominated by the headline: “More Oil” and was followed by a full-page story on page three. I wish to suggest that your emphasis and message are totally misplaced,” the Minister penned in his missive.

“I suggest, therefore, that your public duty would have been better served by switching the aforementioned articles,” Bulkan stated in his letter.

The GPA has since been very critical of the Minister’s letter. In a press statement shortly after, the Association called the letter “an attempt to drive fear into the editors and reporters of that newspaper”.

The GPA had called on President David Granger to ensure that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and the rest of his Cabinet understand his stated policy of non-interference in the State media, and to urge them to let their actions be guided accordingly.

The GPA release also said that the body would be transmitting the statement to the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, international press freedom body Reporters Without Borders, and other international bodies as part of a dossier of instances of the deteriorating State media climate in Guyana.

The President has since defended the Communities Minister. Granger was reported as saying that national events occur which some newspapers ignore.

He stated that Minister Bulkan expressed an opinion, not decided what should or should not be published.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday lambasted the Government for attempting to dictate the editorial direction and content of the State media.