Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
By GHK Lall
Threw was a time in Guyana when the media was almost exclusively owned and controlled by the State. It was not for the greater good. Free and frank articulations of positions, and presentation and dissection of the fullness of facts, were not given uninhibited passage or reasoned reception.
In fact, the opposite held true, with heavy hostility being the norm, when smidgens of contrarian expressions entered (somehow) into the local consciousness.
Towards the end of the last century, gradual changes occurred, with more independent private media entities casting bigger, deeper footprints, leaving more impressionable shadows. It was for the better. Recently, particularly the last year and a half, State media has extended its range and influence, and private media its numerical silos, with more peculiar presences. The former should not be, the latter different; in both instances, alarming outcomes have made serious inroads in the media gains of the last few decades.
The first difference is that government (this PPP Government) has, for all intents and purposes, results, cleverly manipulated and extended the reach and presence of the state into selected private media spheres. While a reasonable expectation is some shrinking of State media, the opposite has occurred, with artful molding of the public mind, determined attempts at stifling dissenting voices, and a de facto expansion of State media, through the establishment of private proxy arrangements, mainly willing surrogates. Thus, unethical leadership behaviors diminish cross-sectional public trust, goodwill.
This is while today’s Government leaders trumpet abiding love for democracy’s ideals and practices, anointed themselves its guardians. A lynchpin of its ideals and practices is a powerful media presence that is accurate, fair, equitable, with small allowance for propaganda. This is notwithstanding government or leaders’ guiles to implement otherwise. All media sections are obligated to speak from foundations of truth and balance, even when both are unsparing of government and leaders specifically, and politicians, generally. Partisanship is understood, and regardless of desirability, it is inseparable from process, life itself.
I insist that accuracy, honesty, and honorable dedication to both ideals and practices must be guiding characteristics of State media management, delivery, and reputation. There must be fullness, openness, straightforwardness. Regrettably, the PPP Government, given the media conduct of leaders and ministers cherish the opposite. I put pungently, today’s government is populated with presences that deal in shadows, smoke, tricks, half-truths, full lies, and numerous things they publicised through State-controlled media, and collaborating private ones.
Some standards are so rooted, they are norms. First, state media has been subverted to serve as the PPP Government’s exclusive channel for bewitching propaganda, vilifying actual opponents, and targeting perceived enemies (who must be made examples).These norms speak poorly of the ambitions and visions of Guyana’s leaders; do little to separate them from brawlers on social media, racists within their fold (including themselves) that they incite, and reward to intimidate critics, or propagate.
To emphasize, private media is entitled to its biases, but within the perimeters of candor and temperateness. To a limited degree, State media is expected to participate, but with restraints of time, accuracy, truth, balance, fairness. Any national leader caring about standing, personal honor, if such are resent, would desire no less.
Likewise, the same must be said for the professionals overseeing, operating, or contributing, in the media section(s) held by the State. State media-in print, cyberspace, radio and television-must not come across as an unthinking, docile, and rank instrument of political masters, through fawning cooperation. There is a professional duty to government and citizens to be otherwise. When government is too influential (and it is today) in the output of State media, and professional media practitioners come across as mere functionaries for obvious political objectives, then the problems of an unforgiving society are exponentially intensified. The taxpayers’ dollars are misused to abuse and insult them.
In the aftermath of the last stormy and controversy-plagued elections, no less a body than the EU made constructive recommendations for (state) media reform, which I believe are very helpful.
My narrowest interpretation of what the EU observers recommended is that the less the state is in the media business, the better. At its widest, I amplify that suggested media reform included: a) think wisely about media ownership and management; b) utilize sagaciously when such ownership is absolutely necessary; and c) deal honestly and cleanly with agencies, whether friendly or adversary.
Amid the fierce heats of the devastating last elections, the PPP Government emerging out of the ashes, was all for democracy, its basics, and bulwarks. Yet, the practices of Government leaders offer a study in the slimy and sleazy. State media is again reduced to daily confirmation of being channels for whatever Government leaders decide is newsworthy. Oil and governance have been the biggest sufferers; corrupters and corruptions the biggest beneficiaries. When confined within government-controlled State media, the disastrous flourishes. And when unswerving devotion to cover-ups, dodgy leadership, generalized political craftiness, and the perpetuation of criminal leadership practices invade friendly, prearranged private media subsections, then the villainous and tragic multiplies.
Nowadays, there are these carefully orchestrated circuses, where government leaders disgrace themselves, with what is sly, lack credence. When the nation’s work is distorted in retail and squatter media outfits, mangled for captive audiences, lines are crossed. When fly-by-night media operators pretend at dubious professionalism, lend themselves to dissemination of questionable truths, participate in maneuvers of Government leaders, uphold clear leadership dodges, and then shamelessly parrot leadership profanities, then malleable private media (in government hands) transforms to deep, dangerous waters. State media expands.
I speak of national issues that must stand tests before national audiences, including the sharply critical. No leader worth his salt, no government committed to rightness and fairness ought to stoop so low, as to take State media so far, and then compound by evading via abetting private media corners to speak to the people about national business. This is Russian, Chinese, and North Korean media all over again.