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GECOM Chairman rules out commission vetting Media Monitoring reports

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally has ditched calls by government for the seven-member commission to consider and approve reports by the Media Monitoring Unit (MMU).

Addressing prospective election observers of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), he insisted that the commission would remain an autonomous unit of the Commission to “name, blame and shame” errant media houses.

“I’m sorry. That unit is my baby. I think it’s a very autonomous unit. It will stay autonomous,” he said.

Surujbally, however, indicated that he would be willing consider revising the tone of the language being used in the MMU reports. “If the words that are being used in the report are too harsh, are too vitriolic in themselves, are too acid; I will tell them you tone down in the way you write things,” he said.

The GECOM boss said the idea was not to alienate the media and political parties from the MMU but to point out where there are infractions. “I have no legal clout, This MMU has no legal clout but I can name, shame and blame,” he said.

Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon earlier this week reiterated government’s concerns about a recent MMU report that chastised former President Bharrat Jagdeo for allegedly uttering racially divisive remarks on March 8, 2015 at a commemorative event held a Babu John, Port Mourant for late Presidents Cheddi and Janet Jagan. The MMU report also criticized coverage by the state-owned Guyana Chronicle.

The Unit monitors radio and television programmes, newspapers, advertisements and speeches at public meetings.

The GECOM Chairman cautioned the observer-hopefuls of the GPSU against issuing directives or making suggestions to voters and election officials but instead relay their observations to him through their point-person at the union.

He urged them not to accept any gifts from persons involved in the electoral process, minimize any level of familiarity or relationship with personnel from political parties and do not use party symbols and colours.

Surujbally emphasised that he wants a peaceful election, rather than one characterized by blood and gore on the streets caused by rumour. He recalled that back on February 16, 1962 a man, who is still alive, started a rumour that police used teargas and killed a young child in Kingston.  As a result, he said the commercial section of Water Street, Georgetown was destroyed by fire.

The eight contesting parties have been given a Code of Conduct and told about the intolerable language that is being used.