The current political environment is highly charged and any misstep by anyone, whether politicians, media or social activists, could result in much harm to the society. Historically, elections periods in Guyana have always been marked by a high-level tension due to the competitive nature of politics. For this reason, we have always insisted that every stakeholder must be extremely careful of their actions.
A few days ago, we had called out the leaders of the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition for what we referred to as a dangerous game they are engaged in by fooling their supporters to believe that they (APNU/AFC) have won the elections when, in fact, the entire world knows that they have lost power. At the time, we had pointed out that peddling these lies will do the party more harm than good, as in the end, a large number of coalition supporters will feel dejected.
The recount results were live-streamed and published across all media platforms. But some coalition supporters, almost daily, are deliberately fed with misleading information about APNU/AFC being given “a second term”, giving their followers a false hope.
Of note too is that this kind of behaviour by coalition leaders is being supported by sections of the State media. On Saturday, the State-owned Guyana Chronicle splashed a misleading headline across its entire front page which states that the coalition has won the elections and a declaration must be made based on the discredited report submitted by Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.
This was yet another dangerous attempt to create mischief as the article did not take into consideration that CEO Lowenfield had blatantly disregarded the directions given by the GECOM Chair and proceeded to use the fraudulent results compiled by controversial District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo to prepare his report.
Further, the article completely ignored the fact that Lowenfield had gone outside of the decisions handed down last Wednesday by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in which he (Lowenfield) was ordered to carry out the directive by the GECOM Chair by using the certified recount results as the basis for the preparation of his report for final declaration.
The role of the media can never be underestimated in this process of building and maintaining a peaceful and democratic society. The State media in particular – due to its source of funding – must, at all times, lead by example.
In their efforts to provide real-time information using different social media platforms, etc, the media must always seek to ensure that they behave in a responsible manner. While some media outlets are known to make genuine efforts to raise their level of performance, one gets the impression that others operate as though they have a political agenda to carry out, since it is clear that they report the news in a partisan manner, sometimes to the extent of being mischievous.
The local media fraternity had signed on to a Media Code of Conduct (MCC) with the aim of using the document not only as a guide for elections reporting, but as a tool to improve general media standards year-round. Representatives of the State-run and private-owned media had given a commitment openly that they would use it (the Code) as a means of self-regulation so as to improve what currently obtains in the media.
Section 4 of the MCC clearly states: “The Media, in accepting the principle of ‘accuracy and balance’ in reporting, particularly during periods of campaigning for elections, acknowledge that these two main characteristics (accuracy and balance) seek to distinguish good journalism from bad, and journalism from propaganda.”
It adds: “Accuracy requires the verification (to the fullest extent possible) and presentation of all facts that are pertinent and necessary to understand a particular event or issue, even if some of the facts conflict with a Journalist’s, or a broadcaster’s particular beliefs and feelings; and “Balance, or impartiality, requires the presentation of all the main points of view or interpretations of an event or an issue, regardless of whether the Journalist, reporter, broadcaster, editor or the audience agrees with these views.”
For Journalists, the Code provides a benchmark against which their output and activities can be judged by others, as well as guidance for them about acceptable methods of gathering and presenting information. And for the public, it provides a guarantee that the material they receive is a genuine reflection of the truth, based on information gathered fairly and thoroughly checked by those who present the information.
Going forward, it is hoped that in this politically-charged environment, all stakeholders, including politicians, media practitioners and commentators, etc, would be extremely cautious about what they say or publish. Our nation’s future is at stake.