by Guyana Chronicle
SINCE freedom of the press gives the right of expression, does it include the right of making statements in an unbridled manner, including those that are deliberate in their falsity, and injurious to one’s character, thus bringing one’s integrity into disrepute? For example, does it give the right to disseminate information about government that is without any foundation or truth? These have been questions at the heart of the perennial battle between the State and this Fourth Estate, as seem to be the case in the recent public comment by the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Bissessar, that “there were some in the media who were biased against her government and distorting the facts”.
What a statement of comparative co-incidence, if only because a similar situation of more extreme proportions exists in Guyana at this time. But first, some views on the role of the media.
That the media is critical to the State’s daily evolvement need not be repeated. Among its chief descriptions, it is known as the guardian of the citizen’s rights; the public’s protector. Most important, it is a powerful conduit of information that influences public opinion, and in this most delicate aspect of its functions, it must make daily pronouncements on government and its functions, which is often about cabinet and other high ranking official’s portfolios and performances. Again, these are its rights; but, the issue always is as to the manner of discharging these, for as the passage of time has shown – the media has come into conflict, particularly with governments, for its reporting. The pivotal question concerning the media is about its ability to be objective, particularly if it has a political agenda.
Of course, in such statements/commentaries, one many times cannot fail to observe the subtle and open attacks on the Executive. These types are underlined by a political agenda, despite efforts of camouflaging. Hence, one may conclude that this is what the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister may be alluding to when she spoke. One can understand her concern, even perplexity, for after all she and her government are faced with their fair share of challenges, especially those that involve a very high, frightening crime activity, but have been taking measures to make the twin-island Republic a safer place.
The fact to be emphasized is that no Head of State/Government must allow his/her government to be unfairly attacked/criticized without responding. Since an elected government is mandated to govern, it is also one to deliver on its promises. Therefore, there must be recognition of this fact, especially considering the complexities inherent in such a sacred undertaking.
It has been the unfortunate experience in the local press milieu, of a certain house, particularly taking advantage of press freedom in Guyana, waging a relentless offensive of misrepresentation and distortion against the PPP/C government. If Prime Minister Bissessar has described the media in her country as “biased”, which she did, then the local situation is one of defined vilification because of the sustainability of its attacks. But there is a political agenda that supports such a strategy and, therefore, one has to understand this hostile line that is thoroughly jaundiced, against such a background.
A government must be acknowledged fairly for its efforts at nation building; for it is only morally just that this be, since it is its mandate that is on trial. And since, as alluded to above, that the media is all pervasive in its reach, and very potent in ability to inform public discourse, then it has to be ever so careful as to its great responsibility of being balanced. The media must understand, too, that if its role is to castigate then it must do, taking into consideration all the factors of whatever it seeks to highlight.
Too many times, the media is guilty of the glaring sin of selective reporting. This is unethical, and serves to convey the opposite to that which is the reality. Such, among the fallout, damages any government’s credibility and genuine efforts internationally. The harm can be incalculable, if not countered by a vigorous response.
Thus one can empathise with the Trinidad Prime Minister, for here in Guyana, there is example of a media house that continues its frequent diet of biased reporting on the government.