Let’s begin with Inews.
When the PPP ascended to power in 1992 they systematically began to dismantle the remnants of an already teetering free press. Concurrent with the shuttering of free press was the upsurge in Television broadcasting. Licenses to broadcast were granted on a basis that left little to the imagination as to the station’s political alignment. Radio remained government domain and with Television Stations with broadcasts that were, largely, pro government, the PPP was able to define the information that was disseminated to listeners.
It was under these conditions that Robert Persaud, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment and Information, under the PPP government, was granted one of these scarce licenses to broadcast under business name INews. Robert then sold his Inews to ANSA McAl’s Guardian Media Limited – which “operates under the highest principles of international journalistic and broadcasting standards”.
Now , let’s look at Guyana Times, with tag line The Beacon of Truth. The owner of this news organ is Dr. Ranjichandising, reputed best friend of former President Jagdeo and owner of the Guyana Pharmaceutical Limited, the embattled agency involved in distributing stale dated medicines, amongst other egregious business acts.
This paper was launched as a subtle addition to the Guyana Chronicle which was state owned and state run. The paper never quite made it as a source of news to the already jaded public, so, the state gave Ramroop the mandate to supply news to its government offices to ensure the flow of indoctrination was, at least, reaching government employees. Rammroop printed about three thousand eight hundred propaganda sheets every day and delivered seventy five percent of them to government offices. Tax payers of course picked up the tab on this one, though many of the copies are said to have contributed to the drainage problem that continues to plague Georgetown.
The Chronicle is owned by the State and has been for, at least, the last twenty three years. As with any State owned news organ, we expected the paper to support the government in its editorials and never read it for a varying view. We didn’t because State owned implies State governed, which means headlines will reflect State’s message. We read those headlines then, during the PPP regime and never questioned the fact that they were worded with intent to influence.
So, against this backdrop, let’s examine the Inews head line, its follow up by Guyana Times and use our discernment to determine motive.
Let’s also look at the journalistic gymnastics used to, ever so slightly, ease itself into the domain of non committance, in the event of any kind of challenge, particularly legal.
“Prime Minister’s Office to approve all headlines in Chronicle Newspaper….. then in paragraph immediately that : INews has been reliably informed that General Manager of the Guyana Chronicle, Michael Gordon has been instructed to ensure that all headlines are sent to Director of Public Information in the Office of the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, before the paper goes to press.
Note the adverb, reliably.
Typically, when this is used by a journalist in lieu of the reliable source itself, it means the source is either nonexistent, and/or unreliable and/or unwilling to stand behind the information shared. Point to remember here, as we move forward is that this is the news organ that falls under the Guardian Media umbrella and touts a reputation “operates under the highest principles of international journalistic and broadcasting standards”.
Now, let’s look at Ramroop’s Guyana Times , it’s tag line The Beacon of Truth and its headline “PM to allegedly vet Chronicle’s headlines” with sub “ …censorship in line with creeping party paramountcy”.
“Allegedly” another loop hole for reporting that skates on the border of fact checking and sensationalism is, also, the default adverb of journalism that seeks attention through appealing to the lower senses of emotion, when it knows that the principles of journalism will never support the information that is being imparted.
We started off this article by seeking reason and then looking for motive.
We have established that the reason is to cause the public to think that there is going to be a State takeover of news delivery and the motive is to create panic; all with a subtext of the Opposition being the guardian angel of the electorate that has been duped by this government whose agenda is to control and disenfranchise.
As the reading public, we have a responsibility to thresh out misinformation from what we need to know.
We need to know that the State has the Right to establish the general guidelines on how its paper reports its policies and its activities to the nation. Of necessity, this cannot be an opinion, an interpretation, an assumption but must be the actual and direct wording of the source.
We, also, need to know that any paper that wants to be regarded for its journalistic integrity, must understand that the principles of journalism must prevail, so that in accurately reporting issues of the state, it still has a responsibility of showing non alignment, not taking a lopsided position in its editorial opinions and quoting its sources.
INews and Guyana Times have fallen, woefully, short in giving us sources and giving us direct quotes. They have run headlines, tempered with adverbs infused to make provocative suggestions, with just enough opening to disclaim incitement.
As citizens, we deserve the option of variety.
What we don’t deserve is misleading headlines from news organs of alleged repute, that gain readership for journalism colored yellow.