The Prime Minister and the media

first_imgThis newspaper has noted Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s objection to its article of 4-19-16 headlined, “US media censorship observation – PM claims US wants to damage image of coalition”.The day before, on 4-18-16, the newspaper had received the US State Department’s 2016 Human Rights Report that was issued by Secretary of State John Kerry just days before. As it related to Press Freedom in Guyana, the Report stated: “Censorship or Content Restrictions: In August, the Prime Minister issued a directive that all headlines in the State-owned print media be first scrutinised and approved by his office before they are published. The directive was a response to a headline criticising the Government. The Prime Minister also serves as Minister of Information.”On the same day, the Director of Public Information (DPI) issued a statement condemning “in the strongest terms” what it said were irresponsible allegations repeated in the media, alleging censorship in State media. It said such claims “are wholly false and baseless and (are) attempt to damage the image of the Coalition Government, which is trying to repair democratic institutions, including State media, that had been left in a shambolic state under the previous Administration.”The DPI did not elaborate as to what and by whom the “allegations in the media” were made. The Times stated this in assuming the statement was in response to the US Report leading to the objected-to headline and story. On April 19, the Prime Minister, to whom the DPI reports, said the “irresponsible allegations” statement above was directed not at the US State Department’s Report but to two columnists, Dr David Hinds and Freddie Kissoon. He then issued a condemnatory statement on the Guyana Times article cited above: it was “calculatedly wicked, false and mischievous”.But what is most instructive is the following day, the Office of the Prime Minister did issue the following statement explicitly on the US statement on the Prime Minister censoring the State media:“The Office of the Prime Minister makes it clear that at no time was any directive issued by the Prime Minister, the Office of the Prime Minister, or any other Government entity that headlines in any State media be scrutinised or approved before publication or broadcast.Any such claim is false, baseless, and without any merit whatsoever.”It then went on to enumerate a number of harsh denunciations against the previous Administration in previous US Human Rights Reports.So it appears that when Dr Hinds accuses the Prime Minister of censorship of the State media, Mr Nagamootoo conclusively discerns in him a desire to “damage the image of the coalition”. But when the US Dept of State makes the identical observation, which the PM dubbed “false, baseless, and without any merit whatsoever”, it somehow is not “intended” to do the same “damage”.But the fact of the matter is Dr Hinds was very specific with his accusations of “censorship” and they go far beyond the demand by Mr Nagamootoo to screen stories in the Chronicle, which he described as a “government” rather than a “state” entity. The Guyana Press Association took him severely to task for that assertion and described the move to intimidate and censor the Chronicle as “a retrograde and intolerable step”. Dr Hinds pointed out, “As a columnist, I have had my experiences of censorship. On two occasions, my column was not carried because they were critical of the Government. In other instances, sections of my columns which criticised the Government have been deleted.”Last September, the respected veteran Caribbean journalist Rickey Singh, resigning as a columnist also as a result of censorship by Mr Nagamootoo stated, “The surprising non-publication of my regular column in last Sunday’s Chronicle had a special focus on the misuse of powers by the “down-sized” Prime Minister Nagamootoo who seems anxious to ensure compliance with ministerial edicts.”Could it be Mr Nagamootoo’s accusations of the PPP being “Stalinist” might be projections of his own state of mind?last_img read more