The Guyana Press Association has selected an executive, largely continuing with those who served in the previous executive, which sat for almost three years since the end of its term. To say there were serious misgivings in the “electoral process” which culminated with voting last Sunday would be an understatement.
A cursory look at the executive tells an important story. Anyone looking at the GPA executive that was put in place last Sunday would see immediately that the executive of the GPA is far from the ideal of representing the media community in Guyana. Significant parts of the media community in Guyana have been relegated to a corner. It is an insult to the dozens of media practitioners for the GPA executive that was put in place last Sunday to say that the media community elected them to represent the media.
In a country where the President and the Government insist on aggressively promoting a ONE GUYANA message, those who, in their wisdom, took the path they did last Sunday in effect seriously poked their fingers into the eyes of the ONE GUYANA movement.
In a country where there is ample evidence that the ONE GUYANA movement has gained traction, those who took control of the GPA took a position that they stand apart from the movement. Indeed, those in control of the present GPA find better congruence with another part of our history. Elections using a list of electors padded with ineligible persons and which excluded eligible voters are not something Guyanese are unfamiliar with. Between 1968 and 1992, the list of electors in general elections in Guyana fitted that mould.
The list of electors for the 1968 elections gained international infamy for registering horses and children who were just months old. When the President, Desmond Hoyte, called elections for December 1990, the elections had to be cancelled when the Guyanese people under the leadership of the PPP succeeded in gaining international condemnation of a rigged list of electors.
When the GPA refused to publish its list of electors, and refused to follow standard guidelines established, they showed their intention, and that intention was not for the media family and media community to walk in step as one. The whole sordid affair smacked of divide-and-rule. Given Guyana’s recent experience from the 2020 elections, one would have thought that the GPA would be very cognisant of the perception they would create by playing games with the list of electors. Hiding the list until just before the election was a sure sign that something unholy was in the works.
Refusing to share a hard copy even at that late time added to the perception of skullduggery. At general elections, we have Continuous Registration, and even Claims and Objections, just before elections, to ensure everyone has a chance to vote. In the case of the GPA, everything was done to limit the voice of practising media practitioners. In effect, the GPA, which want to make the claim they speak on behalf of all media practitioners, have now sabotaged that claim because they only speak for some of the practitioners.
Media practitioners tend to be in three groups, one sympathetic to one political side, a second group prejudicial to another side, and a third group that tries to be impartial in Guyana today. This is not new. There was a time in the 1980s and early 1990s when two organizations existed and spoke on behalf of media practitioners – the GPA and the Union of Guyanese Journalists. The shenanigans of last Sunday might very well return Guyana to that time, when more than one organization speak on behalf of media practitioners. We already have two umbrella groups representing trade unions. It would be a shame that we regress towards two media practitioners’ organizations again.
But the fight is about to become even more complicated, because there is controversy as to who is a media practitioner. In an age where online news and commentary has become a critical component of the news and information industry, how can anyone reasonably argue that online newscast and programs do not qualify? Some of the largest news outlets in America today are purely online.
TV, radio, and newspapers do not represent the total home of journalists and reporters anymore. In Guyana, some of the online practitioners have been embraced by the GPA; others have been cast aside. Fairness is not a hallmark of what happened in the last few weeks with the GPA.
Unfortunately, in Guyana, too many media practitioners conduct themselves in a biased manner, hiding behind the cloak of impartiality but carrying out the agendas of political groups. Some of them claim they are impartial because they report accurately only part of a story.
When reporters, during the election fiasco in 2020, reported that the Foreign Affairs Minister at the time met with the international observers, they reported accurately that part of the story. But some of them omitted to also include that the then Foreign Affairs Minister threatened to withdraw the observers’ credentials. That was the real story.
That is the kind of bias that is detrimental to a society that wants to live in freedom and in a democracy. The media cannot cherry-pick its role. It is an utter shame.