Current council of Guyana Press Association should excuse itself

Dear Editor,
Professional associations play a crucial role in advocating for standards, providing professional development, and safeguarding the interests of their members. With World Press Freedom Day still fresh on our minds for all that it represents, I am compelled to point out the governance vagrancies of the Management Council of the Guyana Press Association (GPA), based on its gross disregard for financial accountability; for the perpetuation of naked, grave and egregious breaches of the Association’s Constitution; and for the inherent democratic deficiencies of the current leadership.
I begin by pointing out that it has been more than a year since the Annual General Meeting (AGM), curiously described as a General Members Meeting, was called and the scandalous elections were held for a new Management Council. However, incredibly, that meeting has not yet ended! As a reminder, after the elections were completed, the meeting, held on May 14, 2023, was suspended, to be continued later.
More than a month after that – June 13, 2023 – the executive used its Facebook page to announce that the meeting will continue on July 8, 2023 at the Theatre Guild in Georgetown. The agenda items included an “update” on the organisation and a vote on amendments to the GPA’s Constitution.
It pains me to point out that, as per the GPA’s Constitution, since these matters were not on the agenda for discussion at the May 14 meeting, continuation of that very meeting cannot introduce new matters. It only requires very basic reading and comprehension skills to deduce this, if one glances at the GPA’s Constitution.
I should point out that Denis Chabrol, a floor member of the Council, proposed the idea of amendments to the constitution, but on my objection, it was agreed that this matter could not be addressed at the meeting, because members could not possibly have been asked there and then to propose changes to the constitution and vote on it on the same day.
The response to the call for a continuation of the meeting was abysmal. There was no quorum, so the meeting could not go ahead. For reference, a quorum for such meetings is quarter of the voting membership of the Association, and at the elections, 96 members voted.
Despite all the machinations it deployed to get 70 votes, it could not persuade 25 persons to show up for the continuation of the meeting.
Yet, the GPA, in a July 8, 2023 statement posted to its Facebook page, said that since there was no quorum, the Council opted to have a brief consultation on proposed amendments to the GPA’s Constitution, and then it made the remarkable claim that “a number of members from various media houses provided suggestions,” seeking to slyly convey the impression that some sort of broad-based consultation was had.
In any case, it was promised that a new date would be announced for the continuation of the meeting, but there has since not been a word on this. If you don’t believe me, do a quick check of the GPA’s Facebook page. So, yes, incredibly, an Annual General Meeting cannot be concluded one year after it started!
Editor, what makes this more incredible is that this is the first meeting of members being held in six years; yes, the first and only! Doesn’t this signal great apathy among members? Doesn’t it signal that members do not want to get involved in the shenanigans of this current council? Isn’t it time that this executive excuse itself?
If you don’t believe me, check the photos of the World Press Freedom Day event held at Moray House in Georgetown. Barely a handful of journalists turned up to the event. Empty chairs in a small room reads more of an embarrassment, if anything else.
Editor, please indulge me to point out just one of two of the crass amendments proposed by the Executive – yes, proposed by the Executive, and not members. The proposed amendment is for (1) the life of the elected leadership executive to be extended from two to three years, and (2) for a president to be eligible to run for office for not two, but THREE consecutive terms! That the Executive could think members would even consider this is as vomitus as the proposal itself.
Editor, it compels me to remind you that this council was elected through dubious and undemocratic means. A year ago, I pointed out that the last remaining members of the past council, all of whom stood for office and were re-elected, dictated that the council would not accept applications from new members (members whom it suspected would vote for me), while it renewed and accepted membership from those it was sure would support Nazima Raghubir’s candidacy. And then voting by proxy (in favour of Raghubir) took place for those who could not attend, without any explanation of how voting by proxy would take place. Once voting commenced, proxy sheets appeared from the left side of the auditorium, where Raghubir and those who supported her were gathered.
I had petitioned, joined by editors of several media houses, for the voter’s list to be produced, but none was produced until I was able to get on the stage on the day of the vote and was able to take pictures of it. It confirmed our suspicions that the council had allowed membership of those who did not qualify, as per the GPA’s Constitution, to be voting members.

Some may argue that Raghubir’s 70 votes to my 25 was a large margin, but if one were to subtract all of those who did not qualify to vote but did vote (either in person or by proxy), and add the legitimate members of the press who did qualify, the odds would have been easily stacked against Raghubir and the current council. It’s no whimsical assumption when one considers the fact that the editors of 10 media houses petitioned for membership for those who were refused, and petitioned for the release of the voter’s list in the interest of transparency and accountability. My media house alone had over 10 legitimate members who qualified for voting rights, but were denied membership over the blanket position that no new members would be accepted until a new council is elected.
An almost instant glance at the voter’s list, I had pointed out, revealed thereon those who did not qualify for voting membership of the GPA, including a taxi driver, a farmer, and a Bollywood radio host. Raghubir knows the farmer well, as he previously worked with her, and he recently applied to work at my news organization. She also knows very well the former cameraman who worked with her, and had left the profession and was working as a taxi driver at the time of the elections.
But for argument’s sake, let’s forget all of them and just look at two on the current executive leadership: Secretary Iva Wharton and Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Ariana Gordon. The GPA’s Constitution demands that a voting member be someone who “devotes a major part of his/her time and earns a major part of his/her income from journalism”, and that person would have to be “involved in the practise of journalism for “three consecutive years” in order to be entitled to the membership.”
Editor, at the time of the GPA’s elections, three consecutive years had not elapsed since Ms Wharton ended her stint as head of the Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Communities (now Ministry of Housing and Water). And the same goes for Ms Gordon, who was employed at the Press and Publicity Unit of the Office of the President. Both had devoted a major part of their time and had earned a major part of their income from their government jobs, not journalism, up until at least August 2020, when the new Government was sworn-in.
Let me further remind you that, before calling elections, Ms Raghubir had squatted in office for three years after her legitimate time in office had ended. She used the excuse of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines even when business had returned to normal, and even when such Annual General Meetings were effectively held by organisations way larger than the membership of the GPA.
Even in those five years, the GPA council had failed to meet the basic requirements of the GPA Constitution. Not a single general members meeting was held in those five years, and as I pointed out above, the one called for her re-election is still ongoing.
Let’s get to finances. Not a single financial report was provided to members in the five years that Raghubir served her first protracted term in office. Indeed, even at the meeting for the election of the new executive, no financial statement was provided – a basic norm of any AGM by any organisation.
Clause 20.1 of the GPA’s Constitution states thus:
“The Council shall cause to be kept proper books of accounts with respect to:
(a) all sums of money received and expended by the Association and the matters in respect of which such receipts and expenditure take place
(b) all sales and purchases of goods by the Association
(c) the assets and liabilities of the Association.
Members have absolutely no idea of the spending of the GPA’s funds, including millions of dollars collected from Open Society Foundations.
Editor, the GPA’s Constitution, at clause 10.1, dealing with disciplinary powers, points out the following: “The Council shall be empowered to warn, admonish, reprimand, suspend or terminate the membership of any member who commits an act or conducts himself in such a manner that the Council shall deem him to have:
(a) violated any such standards of professional conduct as may be established or prescribed;
(b) act (sic) in breach of any rule made by the Council or in breach of the Constitution of the Association;
(c) brought or is likely to bring the practice of journalism, journalists or the Association into disrepute.
Editor, it is spectacularly clear that the current council is in violation of all the counts that call for disciplinary action. Will they not bow in shame and discipline themselves; and to use local parlance, just beat out?
The indefinite suspension of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) due to the council’s inability to secure a quorum highlights a significant disengagement of the membership base. This issue underscores a deeper problem of declining trust and respect for the Association’s leadership among its members.
The rigging of elections within the GPA not only undermines the Association’s democratic foundation, but also compromises its role as a model of journalistic integrity. Such actions jeopardise the Association’s credibility and diminish its authority to advocate for journalistic standards.
The failure to reconvene the AGM almost a year later reflects an inability of the current council to command the respect and engagement of its journalists. This lack of engagement gives the current council no locus standi to act in the interest of Guyanese media workers.
For an association that represents the press, the stakes are particularly high, as public trust in journalism is critical to the functioning of a democratic society.
Therefore, Editor, this Council should, in disgrace, excuse itself.
Yours sincerely,
Neil Marks
Former President of the Guyana Press Association