The state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper has ordered two ardent government supporters, who are often critical of the coalition-led administration, to cease submitting columns to the publication, a move that has drawn stinging suggestions of censorship.
Political Science Professor, David Hinds and veteran trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis told Demerara Waves Online News that they were informed on Thursday by the Guyana Chronicle’s Editor-in-Chief, Nigel Williams that publication of their columns would be discontinued.
“This decision has been arrived at following discussions at the highest level of the company in keeping with policy directions. The Guyana Chronicle as it continues with its re-branding would like to focus on new areas which require specialist interventions at this time,” Williams said in his email to one of the columnists
Both Hinds and Lewis told Demerara Waves Online News that in the recent past, their opinion pieces had not been published in the government-controlled Guyana Chronicle. Their columns have been highly critical of the David Granger-led coalition including some of its decisions and how it has handled key policy issues which they have forecast could even erode the APNU+AFC’s electoral chances at general elections in 2020.
Lewis said decision-makers at the Guyana Chronicle “have a right to do what they want to do once they respect my right too”. He recalled being told that “sometimes I am too harsh on the government,” but he argued that his fundamental rights and freedoms have been violated. “When you are expected, in a free society that public officials will be accountable; I guess persons do not want to be held accountable,” he said.
Hinds said he was unsure what triggered the decision by the Guyana Chronicle to scrap the publication of his column, “Hindsight” but if it was politically motivated he would find the move rather objectionable. “One can speculate that it’s an attempt to get rid of people like myself who may be critical of the government from time to time in a newspaper that is run by the government. If that is so- I’m not sure that that is the case- but if that is the case, we are in a very bad place. One would have thought we fought those battles against the previous PNC (People’s National Congress) government and against the PPP (People’s Progressive Party) government and that his new government, at least the tolerance for dissenting voices would be respected even in the State media so if it’s politically motivated, then we are in a very bad state,” Hinds said.
Hinds, an executive member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), which is part of the PNC-Reform-dominated A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), was unsure at what level the decision was made. Asked whether he accepted the Editor-in-Chief’s explanation to discontinue publication of his column, Hinds said, “I think the explanation is nonsense” about seeking specialists” especially since he is a Political Scientist and his opinion-pieces are largely on political issues. “Whatever the case is, the point is that I am a political person and my column is a political column and my column is not always favourable to the government and so if you are removing that column, it is bound to raise political questions,” he added.
He said his column has not been published for the past two weeks, with the excuse given by Williams that they were submitted late. Even after Hinds said he submitted his column early, it was not published and when he enquired was greeted with a response that they would no longer be published. “It seems that there has been something that has been brewing over the last couple of weeks that may have influenced the decision; what it is I really don’t know,” he said.
The Political Scientist said he would not be challenging the Guyana Chronicle’s decision, but other stakeholders such as advocates of free media should note that it the publication is a state-owned newspaper run by the government. “Those things (media) don’t belong to government. The government runs it on behalf of the state and I have always felt that the Chronicle newspaper and NCN (National Communications Network) should not be the government’s mouthpiece but they should give the government coverage because they have no bigger responsibility to government than to the opposition and to independent voices,” he said.
The Political Scientist said government should not be given more coverage than other actors in the State. He observed that columns by Alliance For Change members Sherod Duncan and Leonard Craig were being published in the Guyana Chronicle.