GDF Officers Conference walkout: Press Association says media profession ‘disrespected’

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A group of approximately 19 media operatives on Thursday morning staged a walkout on the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Annual Officers Conference hosted at the Base Camp Ayanganna.

Some of the media operatives as they were exiting the facility

The media – inclusive of both state and private entities- were invited to cover the Annual Officers Conference for 09:30hrs. As such, most of the respective members complied and arrived long before the given time.

However, upon arrival, instead of being directed to the conference room located in the Officers’ Mess, they were diverted into another building and asked to wait in a tiny room- which resulted in overcrowding.

While in the room, the media operatives reminded the GDF’s Communications Officer, Major Earl Edghill that they needed to arrive at the conference room in a timely manner, so as to allow for them to set up cables and cameras to provide the coverage.

Edghill asserted that he was aware of this and maintained that the operatives will be escorted to the room later.

At approximately 09:45hrs, the large group of reporters/journalists, cameramen and photographers were taken to the conference room, where it was observed that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President David Granger had already arrived and his presentation was well underway.

In addition to this, the media was informed that no seats were provided for them.

Faced with what was described as disrespectful and discourteous service to the media professionals, all of the media entities, including the state media, with the exception of the Department of Public Information (DPI), walked out.

In an effort to convince the respective members to return and provide coverage, GDF personnel Colonel Michael Shahoud apologised.

Shahoud, posited that the media was not invited to cover the opening statement as it contained “some sensitive information which we would not want members of the public to be privy to.”

Vice President of the GPA Zoisa Fraser engaging with Colonel Michael Shahoud

At this point, the observation that the DPI had been allowed access from the very inception, and were seen videoing the proceedings of the conference, was questioned.

However, Shahoud was vague with his response, but noted that the GDF’s cameras were recording.

The Guyana Press Association (GPA) in a subsequent release expressed solidarity with the media entities that walked out, while describing the situation as “gross disrespect for those in the profession.”

According to the GPA, it “would like to use this opportunity to remind the Guyana Defence Force of the importance of the media, not only as a group but as a major partner that also works to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of this country. The media does not work in a vacuum and its members should be treated with the respect it deserves.”

The Association said further that “it is unfortunate that the GDF continues to engage the media in this manner even after repeated attempts to engage and work towards a better relationship.” (Ramona Luthi)

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