The media – the fourth estate – stood tall in 2020 in defence of Guyana’s democracy

Today brings us within 48 hours of seeing 2020 behind us. We wish everyone a blessed and rewarding 2021. As we say adios to 2020, we recognise the brilliant role the Guardians of Democracy played in ensuring Guyana enters 2021 as a free nation, still among the family of democratic nations. We particularly commend the Guyanese Media and recognise them as the Guyanese Entity of 2020.
Last week, this column named Bharrat Jagdeo as Guyana’s Person of the Year, mainly for his resolute, calm leadership in defending Guyana’s fledgling democracy, ensuring Guyana stays on the path of a democratic future. As 2020 comes to an end, this week, recognition is extended to the indispensable role the media – print, radio and television – played in defending Guyana’s democracy, ensuring the David Granger-led APNU+AFC failed in thieving the March 2020 elections.
The Guyanese media, over the years, has been criticised for not living up to the ideals of the fourth estate in a democracy. But across the board – leaving out the Chronicle and NCN, which are owned by and are subject to control by the Government – the Guyanese media stood resolute during the five-month siege, early firmly standing on the side of democracy, regardless of which party won the elections. The eventual concession of David Granger and APNU+AFC, five months late, allowing a legitimately-elected Government to take control in Guyana, occurred not because Granger and APNU+AFC willingly abandoned efforts to thief the elections, but because of intense pressure from many fronts. The Media was one critical front, and for this reason, this column deems the Media the Entity of the Year 2020.
Led by newspapers like the Stabroek News, Guyana Times, Kaieteur News, and TV newscasts such as the Neil Marks-led News Room, the media was daily reporting the latest bizarre thieving attempts by Granger’s APNU+AFC. Between March 3 and August 2, every bizarre and outlandish new attempt to thief the elections was documented for the Guyanese people and the world. Some of the media operatives put aside their years of affiliation with Granger’s APNU+AFC and blitzed them with exposure. Some of APNU+AFC’s most ardent media supporters turned their backs on APNU+AFC. They did so not in support of President Irfaan Ali and his PPP, but in support of democracy. At crunch time, the media played its role as the fourth estate of democracy.
This column unconditionally names Guyana’s Media as the Entity of 2020, for its role in being an indispensable part of the Guardians of Democracy during those five months when democracy was under siege.
The international press played a role, as did the ABCE diplomatic corps. CARICOM stepped up, and the personal investment of CARICOM leaders cannot be understated. No one can deny the role of the US State Department, the UK Foreign Office, and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. All these were part of an international effort to stop dictatorship in Guyana.
But the role of Guyana’s media convinced Guyanese early that Granger and APNU+AFC were on a mission to thief the election, because the Media exposed APNU+AFC’s bogus claims of dead people and phantom voters. That supporters of Granger and APNU+AFC early saw through the bogus claims is a measure of the effectiveness of the media. Given that many APNU+AFC supporters had come to see Stabroek News, the Kaieteur News and entities such as NEWSROOM as either neutral or leaning towards Granger and APNU+AFC, their exposure of electoral theft gained traction among APNU+AFC supporters.
Thus, by August 2, when Granger was forced to concede, the expectation that APNU+AFC supporters will erupt in violent protest did not happen. This is because by the time the concession came, and President Irfaan Ali took his rightful place as Guyana’s President, the Guyanese people had known the truth. GECOM’s official declaration of the real results on August 2 was nothing the Guyanese people did not know – the media had already told them the truth. The daily shenanigans of APNU+AFC, with bogus claims that dead people and people who were never in Guyana voted, were daily exposed, not only by PPP and the newer political parties’ representatives, but also by the media. NEWSROOM interviewing of people who were supposedly dead, Kaieteur News reporting on Mingo’s false numbers, Guyana Times’ daily highlighting the riggers like Lowenfield, Stabroek News showcasing the recklessness of APNU+AFC leaders on a daily basis conditioned APNU+AFC supporters to the truth.
The Washington-based Freedom House has documented the regression in democracy around the world for fourteen years in a row. America, one of the world’s most stable democracies, is seeing a weakening of democracy, where the losing incumbent is trying to stay in power with claims of dead and phantom voters voting. Guyana experienced one of the world’s most egregious and brazen attempts to thief an election. Freedom House’s Democracy Index for 2020 is sure to mention the brazen attempt in Guyana to thief the 2020 elections. But Guyana’s media stood tall in defending Guyana’s democracy. Thus, when President Irfaan Ali was sworn in, it did not come as a shock to any Guyanese, more of a relief among the supporters of APNU+AFC because, long before then, they knew the truth. For this, the Guyanese Media earns the title the Guyanese Entity of 2020.