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PM’s representative is Guyana Chronicle’s new chairman

Imran Khan

Imran Khan

The Prime Minister’s representative on the board of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL)- publishers of the Chronicle newspaper-  has been surprisingly elevated to interim chairman of that state-owned media house.

Imran Khan’s appointment was communicated by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo to management on October 31, 2016 at a time when there are concerns about the independence of that nine-member policy-making body.

Khan was a candidate for the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition in the May 2015 general and regional elections.

Sources observed that independent thinkers such as veteran journalist, Bert Wilkinson and Karen Davis, a public affairs consultant and journalism lecturer, have been bypassed for the position of chairman to replace Jean La Rose who quit after just one year on the job.

La Rose, also an APNU+AFC candidate, had said that she resigned because of increasing opportunities that had become available for her to contribute to the development of Amerindian communities. She had also appeared to signal mild unease about her role as Chairman of the Board. “At this, point I feel I am not contributing to the further development of the board or the GNNL as I may have done if I had more time to dedicate towards fully understanding my role as Chair or as Director,” she had said.

Back in September 2015 when the GNNL and National Communications Network (NCN) boards were appointed, Prime Minister Nagamootoo had said that Khan, Director of Public Information, appears on both boards and will represent him and the interest of the Government.

Khan has since resigned from the NCN Board over the selection and appointment of Lennox Cornette as the state broadcaster’s Chief Executive Officer.

After concerns had been raised about the Prime Minister’s weekly meetings with top editors of the Guyana Chronicle and NCN, he had announced an end to such engagements. However, sources have said that those meeting are still held at which directives are given and concerns are raised about coverage.

The Prime Minister himself has openly raised concerns about aspects of state media coverage, and at one time he had even spoken directly with a parliamentary reporter.

The other board members are candidates -Tabitha Sarabo, Patricia Woolford, Ruel Johnson and Scheherazade Ishoof-Khan- are known APNU+AFC supporters.

  • Dear Editor,

    We wish to respond to a recently published article concerning the appointment of an interim chairman for the Guyana National Newspapers Limited. It is unfortunate that we live in times whereby every action taken seems to ominously reflect the unseen hand of some deeper political intent. As such, it behooves us to write addressing the inclusion of our names as ‘candidates’ or ‘known supporters’ of any local party. In fact, that the more serious issue of the appointment of a political/government employee as the chairman (even temporarily) of a state board is not altogether a welcome decision, it is possible to accept this if a) the position is indeed a stop gap until a permanent chair is appointed and b) if the person appointed is actually a professional in the field that the board administers to.

    In the last few statements of the article, it is implied that we, along with Patricia Woolford and Ruel Johnson are all known “APNU+AFC supporters” and that we were candidates of some sort. To the best of our knowledge, the only actual ‘candidate’ on this list was Mrs. Sarabo Halley. Mrs. Ishoof Khan has never been a candidate on any list for government. However, being avid believers in the individual’s democratic right to express a political preference, we are not at all certain what the insinuation is concerning the word ‘supporters’. Why should that be mentioned at all? And, crucially, does being a ‘supporter’ mean blind obedience and dumb acquiescence? We have seen neither trait amongst any of our board colleagues.

    When we were appointed to the board that runs the venerable Guyana Chronicle, many who knew us felt it was not in our interest to take up the positions. Without knowing what the administrative issues were, we optimistically believed (still do) that it was important to accept the appointment and remain independent voices. Our agenda is to ensure that democratic principles are equally applied, even when the situation warrants allowing those with whom you disagree most vehemently to voice an opinion. The challenges faced by the Chronicle are not new or unknown, but there are people who care about the quality of the paper and despite its chequered past as a state bludgeon, are committed to ensuring that it does not again fall into the dark void of promulgating rabid, caricature-esque pro-political party propaganda. Considering that the government has three branches, the legislature being one of them, it is unfathomable that the state paper has previously aggressively and rapaciously attacked all but a specific political entity, unapologetically serving to further the ends of a party and not the government or the people. Towards that end, in our capacity as directors, we have tried to ensure that our own messaging as regards what the state paper should reflect is a desire to eventually practice journalism as it should be: ethical, accurate, balanced, fair, etc. We are not unaware that the Chronicle has yet to achieve this.

    The current board as it stands is comprised of individuals whose contributions and commitment to a genuine reformation of the state news entity is unquestionable. No appointed member of my acquaintance is remotely interested in remaking a propaganda machine, and absolutely no one wishes to repeat the actions of previous incarnations of the paper. Together with Bert Wilkinson, Karen Davis, Patricia Woolford, Sohan Poonai and Ruel Johnson, we have always functioned as independent thinkers, determining for ourselves what is the best course the paper should take in order to gain credibility as a sensible news entity. Under the stewardship of our previous chair, Jean La Rose, we worked with consensus, weighing and determining and assessing as a non-partisan board should, without the blunt political interference that has been the hallmark of all previous boards. The overwhelmingly negative ethos that we have encountered on so many levels has not daunted us so far, as our board continues to work towards regularizing a state ship that has for too long functioned as pointlessly weaponized political driftwood.

    The recent appointment of the interim chairman has possibly been done in order to ensure that the board continues its work until a new chair is appointed. But, without a deliberate mandate from the minister with oversight of GNNL, and until the independence of our board becomes nonexistent, we will remain members of this board. Should this be compromised at any point, whether under the current or any future chair, it then becomes our duty to bring this to the public attention and to resign. At no instance will we ever be interested in blindly supporting anyone’s political puppet show.

    Sincerely,

    Scheherazade Ishoof Khan
    Tabitha Sarabo Halley
    Directors,
    Guyana National Newspapers Limited

    • Col123

      Petty nonsense…it is “dumb acquiescence” to your conscience sir…it is an argument against what everyone knows for a fact!.. and how much do we pay these folks?

  • Col123

    Agree on points…However, one can argue that it is the mouthpiece of the government…it is supposed to do that….The most important point is ..Why are folks so stupid to consume it hook, line and sinker?

  • Col123

    Those guys eat curry duck from the same pot…they throw the bones out to Guyanese so them stupid folks can eat it and quack…