In a January 13th, 2020 letter to the media, I raised the matter of media broadcast coverage, particularly the coverage of the state-owned- and-operated National Communications Network (NCN) of the political parties contesting the General and Regional Elections as a fundamental requirement for conducting free and fair elections.
I expected the Chairman of NCN, Mr. Enrico Woolford, to respond to my letter, but did not expect him to repeatedly resort to personal invective rather than address the issue itself. I have always recognised him to be a professional, both when he worked under me and since.
It appears that my raising this concern, and in singling out the use of NCN’s facilities to provide totally biased coverage of the rallies launched by APNU+AFC and the PPP/C in favour of the governing party, my letter has gotten under the skin of Mr. Woolford.
My sole purpose in raising this matter and drawing it to the attention of the international community of observers is that it is fundamental to the conduct of free and fair elections, and has been subject to exactly the same abuse in the past at previous elections under other governments, and is now the case again.
The NCN Chairman has persisted that there is no evidence to support my concern, though he admits to the unfair coverage of the rallies, justifying it as coverage of the President. When the President mounts a political platform, he becomes the leader of his political party, to be treated no differently than any other political leader.
The Chairman has asked for proof of the concerns I have expressed. It is a condition of the licence issued to all broadcasters by the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority that they record all of their programmes, and I believe that this is monitored by the Authority for the purpose, in fact, of ensuring free, fair, balanced and truthful broadcast content of not only the state-owned-and-operated NCN, but also the private broadcasters.
Given Mr. Woolford’s attitude on this matter, I invite the Broadcasting Authority or, for that matter, NCN, to publish for the public the exact amount of time allocated to the Government, the governing party (APNU+AFC) and its spokespersons on NCN on news, general programming, and current affairs, in comparison with the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic since the passing of the No Confidence Motion to the present time.
Interestingly, Mr. Woolford uses the pejorative French term “soi-disant” in referring to the international community and observers. For those less versed in the use of this “highbrow” language, it means “so-called” or “claim to be what they are not”.
Of further interest is the fact that the Guyana Chronicle has published all of Mr. Woolford’s letters but has refused to publish the letters of Mr. Tony Vieira and myself. I thought of writing to complain about this to the Chairman of the Chronicle, until I discovered that the Chairman is the Confidential Secretary to the Prime Minister, making the Prime Minister now the de facto Chairman of the Chronicle.
I shall have nothing further to say on this matter.