Gov signals intent to “streamline” social media news entities

Last Updated on Thursday, 5 May 2022, 23:39 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana government on Thursday signaled strongly that the groundwork was being laid to somehow regulate news and current affairs entities that are operating Online, hours after the Press Association pushed back hard against what it regarded as attempts to stifle media freedom under the guise of responsible and good reporting.

“Chief among the issues emerging as most urgent, is the need for streamlining of social media news and current affairs outlets within a workable framework in the Fourth Estate,” according to a statement issued by Prime Minister Mark Phillips’ office.

Guyana has several Online news media that are operated by journalists and conventional media as well as Social Media influencers . There are also several Facebook-based talk shows that are being operated by government and opposition parliamentarians.

At a two-day conference to mark World Press Freedom Day 2022,  President Irfaan Ali and Minister responsible for Public Affairs as well as a number of government-aligned and sympathetic panelists sought to stress what they regard as responsible and good reporting.

Stabroek News Editor-in-Chief Anand Persaud and Guyana Press Association executive member, Denis Chabrol stridently objected to several attempts to redesign what constitutes press freedom, the role of the media, and communication concepts.

The conference ended with no provision for recommendations.

The GPA on Thursday issued a strongly worded statement criticising government for going beyond journalism. “Much of the debates and disagreements at the conference appeared to stem from the decision by the organisers to conflate journalism, public relations practice and social media influence. Whether or not this was the intent, it was a grave error as each category of communication has its own role,” that organisation said.

The Association also said government should take some of the blame for a reduction in the standards of journalism by placing greater emphasis on social media influencers. “If politicians across the divide claim to have any modicum of interest in improving the standard of journalism, then they ought to immediately cease utilizing social media influencers in the place of journalists. To continue doing so is to contribute to the degradation of journalism at the altar of expediency of reach, likes and shares. In this way, sections of the public are led to believe that such social media content are in keeping with globally accepted standards of journalism. ”

At the conference, the GPA representative challenged the government to use the BBC’s Editorial Standards and Charter as models for the State-owned media to serve the public’s interest. The Association stressed the importance of abiding the ethics and principles of journalism.