By Edward Layne
Despite slashing the budget of the National Communications Network (NCN) Incorporated and the Government Information Agency (GINA) to $1 while in Opposition, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government in the 2016 National Budget allocated and subsequently approved a whopping $170 million for NCN and $150 million for GINA, reflecting a more than $50 million increase in their subventions over last year’s allocations.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who holds responsibility for the two State-owned media agencies, defended the increases, noting that in NCN’s case, the entity was heavily indebted.
He pointed out that while the State broadcaster’s monthly expenses top $50 million, its revenue is just about $30 million per month. He also argued that the allocations were expected to help expand and strengthen the entity.
The Prime Minister also defended the GINA allocation, claiming that the resources would be used to ensure that there is improved performance and capacity at the entity.
It is important to note that while in Opposition, the Coalition partners had said the cutting of NCN’s and GINA’s budgets was as a result of their failure to provide coverage to the Opposition.
However, despite the change in administration, to date, GINA has not been providing coverage to the Opposition, particularly during the current Budget debates.
Director of Public Information (DPI) Imran Khan, who operates out of the Prime Minister’s Office, had said that it was not the job of GINA to cover the Opposition, a stark contradiction to the argument that the APNU/AFC used as the basis for cutting the agencies’ budgets.
The DPI’s public pronouncement prompted President David Granger to intervene and declared that GINA must cover the Opposition in Parliament.
“As far as I am concerned, the Government Information Services, the Government News Agency must cover all three branches of Government – Legislative, Executive and Judicial … [people] have to be better informed and you cannot inform the people by depriving them of information,” President Granger had said.
But despite this pronouncement by the President, GINA continues to ignore the Opposition speakers in Parliament.
Checks of bulletins released by GINA over the past 24 hours revealed that not a single Opposition Member of Parliament was given coverage, except for mentions when the Government Ministers were responding to Opposition questions.
Recently, General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Clement Rohee called on GINA to issue an official statement as it related to its policy on coverage of the Opposition. (Reprinted from Guyana Times)