The Governing People’s Progressive Party is not happy with recent statements from the U.S Ambassador about the state of the state media in Guyana and the need for the independent media to stop being referred to as “Opposition media”. The party has now labeled the US Ambassador Brent Hardt as a “meddler in local politics”.
The Ambassador expressed his concerns about the state media and the references thrown at the independent media at a World Press Freedom Day reception hosted at his residence last Friday.
During his speech at the reception which honoured journalists from both the state and private media, Ambassador Hardt said “the United States shares IPI’s belief that state and public media “should represent the views of all political actors in a fair and balanced manner.”
IPI is the International Press Institute that spent a number of weeks in Guyana observing the local media landscape last year.
“IPI also raised an issue I have long found perplexing: the use of the term “opposition media” to describe any media institution that is not controlled by the government. This is indeed a demeaning term that fails to do justice to the vital role that an independent media must play in a modern, democratic society”, the Ambassador said.
He added that the use of this appellation is also inaccurate since “anyone who reads or watches independent media in Guyana will see that there are letters to the editor supportive of the government, columns that advocate government positions, and generally balanced reporting on actions of government. By contrast, in the state-owned and state-run media, which should hold itself up to an even higher standard of balance by virtue of its being funded by taxpayers, one hardly ever sees a letter to the editor or a column supportive of the opposition or critical of the government.”
“In fact, the public reads about instructions being passed by the government to state-run television criticizing staff for airing statements by an opposition party directly after the government’s position was presented, and indicating that such presentations were only to be aired late at night when viewership was lowest”, Mr. Hardt told the World Press Freedom Day reception.
The PPP clearly became incensed with the Ambassador’s statements and in a statement of its own on the morning after, the governing party said “US Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Brent Hardt, a known meddler in local politics, must be rebuked for his assertion that censorship of the media is practiced by the Government, at the same time he purposefully ignores the opposition slashing of the budgetary resources for NCN and GINA. This exposes the political duplicity of this individual”.
The party said it will always support fair and objective journalism and demands an end to the what it sees as the “callous, personalised attacks which are most times riddled with libel and defamation against the President, his cabinet Ministers and public officials”.
The US diplomat said Guyanese journalists should not be afraid to ask the tough follow-up questions. “For example, when a government official suggests that a foreign assistance program is providing assistance to political parties, ask those officials to back up their allegations. Don’t keep repeating the same unsupported allegations in follow-up reports, press for new information, investigate, and inform”, the Ambassador said, as he made a dig as the government’s opposition to the Leadership and Democracy Project.