Local journalists urged to “report locally, think globally”

In an effort to bridge the communication gap between the media and the justice system of Guyana, the International Justice Education Society in collaboration with the Guyana Press Association, facilitated a seminar on Saturday aimed towards “effective reporting for the public good” by engaging members of the media, judicial arm and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in discussions directed towards efficient reporting on criminal investigations and court cases.
Local journalists from various media houses across Guyana benefited from a detailed and comprehensive presentation from Canadian journalist Kim Bolan, who highlighted the challenges and opportunities in working with the Police, building mutual trust and developing sources while engaging reporters in group discussions and question and answer segments.
The Canadian journalist encouraged journalist not to isolate their reporting to Guyana but rather link same with international issues, as to have a broader understanding as to what is happening on the outside.
The workshop, which was hosted at the Guyana Police Force Training Centre, Camp Street, Georgetown, served as a reminder that the media has an important role to play in a democratic society by exposing injustices, making public institutions accountable by covering events fairly and thoroughly while it is important to bridge the gap between media and Police in the collaborative efforts to decrease crime and violence in society.
It was established that the media plays a vital role in reporting on crime and the court system by raising the awareness of criminal activities in society thereby enabling persons to exercise caution while enabling the Government of the day to put in place policies for future planning and to arrive with alternatives to reduce the level of crime in the event that is prevalent.
The media was also reminded of its important role in educating the public about the justice system by keeping the audience up to date with court proceedings by publicising certain penalties attached to specific crimes in the effort to prevent prevalent occurrences. Daily reports of dispensing sentences to heinous crimes may help persons to feel secure thereby developing confidence and trust in the judiciary.
At the workshop reporters raised instances where Police evade media personnel and in the event that they are gotten a hold of, they are often reluctant to comment on or disclose information in a timely manner. One of the issues raised by the media personnel is that if this disparity exists, how can the media be able to effectively report on cases, thereby building public trust in the Police Force? This was aired in light of other events which saw the viral circulation of videos of intoxicated Police Officers harassing citizens and even fellow officers which may serve as a means of undermining Police authority.
Attending the seminar was Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, Magistrate Clive Nurse and Chief Justice Roxanne George along with officials of the Guyana Police Force who interacted with media, sensitising them on practices that can compromise court cases and criminal investigations or harm the public good, particularly in relation to certain types of offences while discussing systems that the Police have in place for engagement with the media.

The importance of reliable information sourcing and correct reporting was highlighted, the defiance of which can cause damage to reputation of both the defendant and the plaintiff (complainant).
Representative is from the GPF encouraged media operatives to be mindful of where their information is sourced by paying keen attention and verifying information before it is published.
As journalists once again raised the difficulties in securing information from Police, they were reminded of the heavy responsibility of investigating and analysing information lies on the Police as they were asked not to put “too much pressure on the Police”. One journalist shared a scenario where they were provided an invalid email address and timely attempts to contact Police proved futile, while highlighting that Police lags in sending out official releases to the media thereby causing persons to publicise information without official confirmation in the case of the recent Republic Bank robbery.
As the media and Police seek to find common grounds to bridge the communication gap in journalism the workshop will continue today. (Paula Gomes)