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– dismantle it for the good of the country
One of the consequences of the imposed change of government on August 2 last year has been the consolidation of a one-party media landscape in Guyana. Readers may ask what is a one-party media landscape? A one-party media landscape is one in which both the traditional public and private media give positive coverage to one party while denying the same to other parties and interests presumed to be favourable to them. Second, these media carry ad nauseam the narratives of the favoured party while silencing those of the others.
I submit that this is the first time in Guyana’s post-colonial history that we have had a media that are so one-sided. This did not occur even under the authoritarian orders of Forbes Burnham and Bharrat Jagdeo because the independent private media remained independent. This ensured a plural media landscape. And in a plural society like Guyana, a one-party media landscape ultimately becomes a one-race media landscape.
The two independent daily newspapers, The Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News, openly supported the Opposition in the last decade of the PPP’s tenure. This was in part driven by the diabolical governance of the PPP that threatened to destroy the socio-political fabric of the country and the concomitant search for an alternative order. So, I think those two newspapers were less pro-PNC and more anti-PPP. In fact, the Stabroek News hardly hid its support for the AFC while Kaieteur News tended to be more pro-APNU. The lesson there is that neither paper was enamored of the PNC. Of note is that despite their anti-PPP stance, they gave full and equal coverage to the PPP.
So, it was not surprising that once it became clear that Mr. Granger and his Kitchen Cabinet had opted to govern not as a coalition but as the PNC, those newspapers quickly turned against them. This meant that along with the Guyana Times they represented a growing imbalance of narratives in the print media. The Coalition depended on the Guyana Chronicle, but that paper was not even the paper of choice for Coalition supporters. The foolish decision to terminate the Lincoln Lewis and David Hinds columns did not help the Coalition as the two columnists may have had some degree of standing in the African Guyanese community.
It is my view that Stabroek and Kaieteur were ultimately co-opted or willingly became part of Regime Change. After March 2, they made a complete shift and began to systematically remove anti-PPP sentiments from their pages. They accommodated the pro-PPP narrative about the elections while silencing the counter-narrative. Kaieteur News accommodates Kissoons libelous outpourings and his obscene racialised attacks on Black Leaders. There is no editorial tempering of Kissoon’s attacks.
My column and Lewis’ were pushed out of Kaieteur for not supporting the pro-rigging cabal. I was told that my columns were no longer in line with the editorial views of the paper. I never libeled anyone or used my column to abuse anyone, yet I was not in line with the paper’s policy. One has to assume then that Kissoon’s daily libel and abuse with whom he disagrees is in line with Kaieteur News editorial policy.
Over at Stabroek, the situation is equally grim. There is no abrasive columnist there, but its bias is not only what it publishes, but by what it refuses to publish. It hardly publishes anything I write and as a rule does not cover the releases from the WPA, the party to which I belong. Only recently, Dr. Henry Jeffery pulled his column from the paper after parts critical of the PPP’s election narrative were deleted. I have not paid attention to the Guyana Times and Chronicle because these papers never made any claim to being independent.
This one-party media landscape has serious consequences for Guyana going forward. Such media and Ethnic plurality are diametrically opposed. To deny coverage of the representatives of one ethnic group in situation where the papers benefit from taxpayers’ money via government advertisements is unfair to say the least. It is not too late for those two newspapers to change course. A paper has a right to like and support a party, but to impose its bias on the flow of information is not democratic.
(More of Dr. Hinds’ commentaries can be found on his website guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news and on his Facebook page Hinds’Sight. Catch him on Facebook on Thursdays at 7 pm for Politics 101 with Dr. David Hinds.)