By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – A panel of senior local Journalists has resented any notion that may exist which seeks to suggest that the political opposition is not being held adequately accountable in daily reporting.
News Source’s Gordon Moseley was the first to disagree with the question: is the media giving the opposition a free pass? When he along with Kaieteur News’ Adam Harris and NTN Radio Editor Janelle Persaud sat down to discuss the role of the media in Guyana’s politically charged environment on the radio programme ‘Hard Talk’.
Moseley took a resolute stance; claiming that the local media has held all political parties equally accountable.
“The media has been there doing a fair job… if you look at daily reports and press conferences you will clearly see that,” Moseley argued.
There was also the argument that by holding one political party accountable it amount to bias. To this end, Persaud pointed out that the onus is on media personnel to ensure that media standards were not breached, whether it was being done by suppression or in the name of freedom of the press.
Harris in sharing his own experience recalled that he worked for both state media (thought to represent government views) and the private media (which is accused often of representing the opposition views).
“I learnt to blank out people questioning my work in fact I let people judge my work,” Harris said; adding that “When all is said and done we have our work to do.”
A somewhat heated argument erupted during the show when Moseley expressed the belief that media practitioners should not let their political affiliations be known as he recalled seeing a reporter wearing the t-shirt of a political party, while on the job at a public rally. He fears that by doing so one’s objective reporting could be discolored.
His expression was met with disagreement from Persaud who said “Guyanese need to mature to the point where there is respect for people’s position and views… we (Journalists) are first citizens of a country and we should be able to make our political convictions public.” To support her argument Persaud pointed to what is obtained in the US media, where Journalists declare their support for either the Democrats or Republicans.
Harris supported both perspectives, but insisted that no reporter, on the job, should go on a political platform or march for a political cause.
The trio was unified in pointing out that too often the media is made a scapegoat and blamed by political parties. To this end, Harris pointed to the unwillingness of some public officials when approached by the media but turns around to criticize and sue when misinformation is published.
Persaud shared her personal experience in this regard too. She recalled the refusal of several opposition members to offer comments and appear on her show during her tenure at the National Communications Network (NCN).
State of Media and Responsibility
They collectively cautioned against educating the public while being uninformed, not verifying information or sensationalism, all of which could result in breaches of journalist standards and ethics.
Moseley, who is also President of the Guyana Press Association believes that the media has come a long way and operate in a fairly free environment. He said however that there are cases where efforts are made to suppress press freedom.
He said too that the media corps is more responsible than not, while also pointing to cases of bad and irresponsible reporting.
Meanwhile, Harris supported Moseley; expressing the view that the local media in Guyana is free. He said while there was some truth to it, politicians should refrain to flagging the media pro or antigovernment/opposition.
Persaud expressed a slightly different view; claiming that while the media is free in respect to where it was years ago, its freedom is very relative. This thesis is linked to the labelling of media operatives by political actors based solely on place of work, she added.
The panel also touched on sensationalism; admonishing that while the citizenry may have an appetite for it and it increases income, it remains reckless and unethical.