– NCN CEO instructed to tender ‘an unqualified apology’ to the pregnant broadcast journalist
Less than 24 hours after senior management of the State broadcaster National Communications Network (NCN) was forced to rescind its decision to remove journalist and News Anchor Natasha Smith from her anchoring duties because of pregnancy, President David Granger has weighed in on the situation, saying that pregnancy should be celebrated and accepted in the workplace.
The Guyanese Head of State told reporters on Wednesday that while Government was yet to articulate a position on the issue, he personally believe that pregnancy was natural and normal for women.
News Anchor Natasha Smith
“How can you get children without being pregnant? So, we should start to accept pregnancy as something very normal and don’t regard it as something strange or a unusual occurrence,” President Granger said to reporters when asked for a comment on the ongoing controversy involving the NCN News Anchor, who was pulled from anchoring the newscast because of her pregnancy.
To this end, the Head of State is of the view that there is nothing wrong with having a pregnant woman anchoring the newscast. He said, “I don’t mind seeing a pregnant air stewardess or a waitress in the restaurant. Pregnancy is normal, so let’s celebrate it and let’s be grateful we have pregnant women. That’s my position, and I don’t mind if she is on the screen or on the radio. Why not?”
In a statement last week, Smith said last month (August 12) she was informed by a senior manager of the State-owned entity that she would be relieved of her duties as anchor. The broadcast journalist pointed out that it was shortly after this revelation that she was made aware that the reason for the decision was because she was unmarried and pregnant.
This issue has caused much public outrage, especially within the media fraternity and particularly from the Guyana Press Association (GPA). However, NCN has since denied claims that Smith was pulled from the set due to her pregnancy. In fact, it appears as though Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lennox Cornette was misrepresented by management.
The GPA managed to procure a copy of the minutes from the August 8, 2016 management meeting, which centred on the production of a new montage. The document reads, “With regards to this, the CEO stated that the anchor and wardrobe should coincide with the montage. However, given the present condition of Ms Natasha Smith, the CEO asked that a tight shot be done to remedy the view.”
According to all of the senior executives of NCN who spoke to the GPA, they understood the CEO to be speaking of Smith’s pregnancy, hence the decision was communicated to her.
Prior to the meeting with NCN’s management on Tuesday, executive members of the GPA, along with other members of the media fraternity, union representatives and rights activists, staged a protest in front of the State network’s Homestretch Avenue head office, calling on the company to reverse its decision on Smith.
At the meeting later on, the request was upheld.
In addition, Cornette was instructed by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who has responsibility for State media, to tender an unqualified apology to Smith.
According to the Prime Minister, he found the journalist’s removal from anchoring duties as an attack on her as a woman and as a professional journalist. Nagamootoo outlined that the coalition government stood for full equality of women; hence their right to work or association must not be denied or in any way trampled by their free choice to be married or to remain single, or to bear or not to bear children.
“I do not condone any such act and disassociate myself from the action in this matter by NCN…It agonises me to get involved in what is an NCN management matter, but, as a journalist and as a parent, I refuse to be silent on this occasion,” the Prime Minister said.
Of recent, the State-run media company has come under much criticism after it was also brought to light that Sports Editor Jocelle Archibald-Hawke was suspended for one month without pay after she took to Facebook to criticise another NCN employee for asking President Granger about Pokémon Go – a trending mobile game.
However, NCN management maintained that its decision on the single mother of two was justified. These incidents have caused calls to be made for Cornette to be sent packing. (Vahnu Manikchand)