Sunday October 28, 2012
Denying Opposition its ‘Right of Reply’ will be a development down a slippery slope By Khemraj Ramjattan AFC Leader Over the past few weeks the viewing public of the National Communications Network (NCN) has been bombarded with lengthy discourses from members of the minority PPP/C Government attacking the Alliance For Change. Often those attacks are intentionally personal and a direct assault on the leadership of the AFC. On October 12, 2012, the AFC wrote NCN asking that standard principles of journalism be applied and that the Party be given the right of reply. This is standard among media houses in democratic states and conforms to good ethics of journalism. While it is obviously an alien concept to NCN, the ‘right of reply’ is observed in all democratic societies and by media houses that see themselves as an indispensable pillar of free and balanced speech, with an
underlying principle of responsibility to safeguard the interest of the people and the nation and not be subservient to a single political party. At a time when media is moving beyond being the fourth estate and now sees itself as a motivator and leader, NCN still struggles to implement good journalistic ethics. The right of reply, in the context of the present circumstances, has two principal justifications: 1. The protection and enjoyment of the rights of the AFC as a parliamentary political party and its leaders who were the subject of the attacks to deny and explain the merits and demerits of the PPP Government’s onslaught. 2. The right of the Guyanese public to receive these denials or explanations. This is a component part of freedom of speech which this PPP Government completely blacks out from the public. The public is entitled to a
diversity of information on matters of national importance and which can affect their lives. A right of reply is also consistent with democratic participation, in that it ensures that on matters relevant to democratic decision-making, the public is more accurately informed about specific matters. Any media house worthy of being described as balanced or democratic would abide by self-governing regulations or a code of conduct that allows an agency or a person the subject of adverse reporting to put its or his/her side of the story. This right was hard fought for by men and women all over the world, and even here in Guyana especially by the Jagans in the PPP. The Mirror newsprint case resulted in the PPP managing to procure the material to print so that essentially it could rebut the lies and slanders of the PNC. This PPP today, on the issue of freedom to reply, must
undoubtedly be equated with the PNC of yesteryear. To a certain extent, what it is shamelessly committing today makes the PNC look like altar-boys. In 1948, the United Nations made the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, laying down certain freedoms for all mankind. Article 19 of the Declaration enunciates the most basic of these freedoms, thus: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek and receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This we have almost verbatim in our Constitution in article 146. But this Government’s behaviour has made it patently clear that such a quality freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution is not even worth the paper it is written on. The primary objective of NCN should be to serve the people in Guyana with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest, in a fair, accurate and unbiased manner and using decent language. What we have coming out from NCN, especially in the attacks against the AFC, is the Government exercising its power and control over an agency that has benefited from tax dollars accumulated from a diverse range of taxpayers, not limited to PPP supporters. The PPP’s control over
NCN and the suppression of good journalistic ethics have led some reporters of that entity to a self-imposed restriction that debars them from seeking the other side of the story or airing the opposing view. Others have subjected themselves to the role of being servile PPP mouth-pieces. On both counts, this is making the majority of Guyanese angry, very angry. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “The sole aim of journalism should be service. The press is a great power. But just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the whole countryside and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within”. The AFC asks of reporters in State media… at NCN and Chronicle and the radio station, listen to Gandhi. But then in its programming and news reporting, too, NCN hides the abominations of its principals and the PPP Government’s chief actors. Nothing was said about Harry Parmessar’s investigation into corruption at NCN. The AFC’s random survey, especially in Berbice and Essequibo, reveals that many of the citizens of these Regions know nothing of this NCN fraud. Similarly, NCN never carried any news about Gail Teixeira spewing her venom and hatred against a generous Englishman who came at her Government’s
request to advise us on Parliamentary reforms. When this expert’s two most important recommendations were being moved in the National Assembly by the AFC to be implemented, she outrageously and most notoriously remarked : “Sir Michael Davies could go to hell!” This statement alone in any other Caribbean democracy would have demanded her resignation or dismissal. Neither did the public see carried on NCN TV or radio or even in the Chronicle, Teixeira’s venom against the Opposition when she said with utter arrogance: “We gun mek alyuh eat craw”! It is the local equivalent of making the Opposition grovel, for those who don’t know. And just to remind her, it was directed to an Opposition which is in the majority! This is not good for this country. This is wholly repugnant conduct from this Government which seems to be running amok. The AFC will welcome a more friendly and courteous Government engagement with the joint Parliamentary Opposition. A continuance of the Government’s ragingbull, ready-to-rumble approach as against the exercise of Executive diplomacy, will see lots more rancour and dog-fights in the Assembly. All the AFC demands is respect and we will, with the support of the business community, workers organizations, professional bodies and the public at large, ensure that it is given to us! We want an end to this eye-pass!
GABA to present comprehensive plan on ‘Road to 2016’ to Minister this week The Guyana Amateur Boxing Association (GABA) is the first association to jump on challenges made by several government sports officials to produce a comprehensive plan on the Road to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil and will present same to Minister of Sport Frank Anthony this week. Speaking with GABA President Steve Ninvalle, he indicated that the document was completed and it was a very thorough one that touched on every aspect of a team of boxers’ preparations over the next four years in the lead up to the mega event. Guyana’s lone Olympic medal, a bronze, came in boxing in 1980 when Michael Parris clamed same. Ninvalle is of the view that Guyana stands its best bet in securing another medal in boxing at the 2016 Games. He noted that GABA realised the need for long term and proper preparation of it fighters if they are to either equal or surpass Parris’ feat. He informed, without going into full
details, that the document, which will be handed to Minister Anthony sometime this week, touches on everything necessary for the adequate preparation of the local pugilists. It encompasses key tournaments to be attended in the lead up to the games, training, finances etc. Ninvalle noted that the document was very comprehensive and he gave full credit to GABA Secretary Sean Richmond who was instrumental in its compilation. He indicated that it could be used as a future blue print for preparation of athletes for similar high level events. The GABA Head promised to make copies of the document available to the media so they can assess their plan. Once the document is in government’s hands then it’s up to them to follow through and offer tangible assistance to GABA to ensure that Guyana have every chance of medaling in the sport in Brazil in 2016.