OPINION: We are in the era of the media absurdity

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 May 2024, 19:52 by Writer

By Dr Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus

Just about when you think you have seen the most ill-founded, absurd, and outrageous accusations in Guyanese politics, comes a deposit from someone who hides behind a pen name, but who nonetheless accuses the current administration of lack of transparency. Peeping Tom’s May 12th Kaieteur News column is indicative of the absurdity to which journalism has sunk for some sections of the media. 

For the record, the same Peeping Tom penned an intellectually bereft piece against PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo’s suggestion that the rift between the US and China is one of strategic competition, rather than one of ideology. This writer wrote a response to Peeping Tom’s childish outburst, but it was denied publication. Yet, the KN columnist has the temerity to talk about unethical practices in the media space. The real question is who is bullying whom?

In the May 12th piece noted above, Peeping Tom claims that officials are not available to the media and that this “…impedes the flow of information, making it arduous for journalists to obtain critical insights into government policies and decisions.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this is more than disingenuous. It is a bold-faced lie, a ‘quality’ that has now become a core value. What is undeniable is that the political opposition (APNU+AFC), and many in the politicized NGO community, regularly complain that government officials have too much presence in the media. 

To say that there is lack of information about government policies is plainly laughable. President Ali has given multiple press conferences and is regularly available to citizens and media alike at outreaches, and other public events. Vice President Jagdeo holds press conferences every Thursday, rotating between the roles of General Secretary of the PPP, and Vice President. I know for sure that, except for the last presser, Kaieteur News without fail asks the most questions. It is the only news outlet that sends multiple reporters to these press conferences. 

Readers should be aware of relatively new stratagems employed by the Opposition, the media, and those in civil society hostile to the PPPC administration. There is a two-fold approach – (1) accuse the PPPC of what the accuser is most guilty of, and/or (2) take their own weaknesses and transfer them to the PPP. Let us examine these two stratagems.

The Peeping Tom trick of accusing the PPP of attacking the press has a long history. The truth is that Kaieteur News is a full-blown political platform, and certainly not a newspaper that operates according to the norms of professional journalism. Most of what it publishes, except for crime and road accidents, are politically loaded diatribes against the PPP. The letter section is a gift to the opposition. The few pieces defending India, and more specifically Prime Minister Modi, are irrelevant to Guyana. In fact, they play right into the opposition playbook. 

Another iteration of the new stratagem is easily visible in the writing of Dr Gary Best. Best recently made the extraordinary claim that the PNC 28 years of dictatorial rule were productive and should be the basis for national pride. What you have here is plain old revisionist malarkey. This is not any kind of sophisticated revisionist historiography. Rather, it is an in-your-face kind of bullyism based on staggering misrepresentations of what happened under the PNC dictatorship, and under the APNU-AFC tenure between 2011-2020. 

A word about Stabroek News’ frequent publication of Hamilton Green is necessary. It is better to pursue the matter through some questions. Why does SN give so much access, both in terms of frequency and space, to a man who openly called for rigged elections, and the same person who was an integral part of the PNC dictatorship? What is the explanation? 

Janet Jagan once told this writer (in 2006) that the most potent opposition against the PPP are the letter sections of the newspapers. She was right then, and her insight still holds today. These days, however, even the editorials read like letters to the editor. Yet, these same folks cry out against what they inexplicably represent as suppression of the media. We are indeed in an era of media absurdity, one in which those who commit crimes against good sense, want the international community to take note. 

Dr Randy Persaud is an Advisor in the Office of the President.