Updated on Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 11:39 p.m. by Denis Chabrol
On Thursday, the Guyanese government forcefully signaled that the groundwork was being laid to somehow regulate news and current affairs entities that operate online, hours after the Press Association pushed back harshly against what it saw as attempts to stifle media freedom under the guise of responsible and good reporting.
“Primarily of the issues that emerge as the most pressing is the need to streamline social media and news media into a viable framework in the Fourth Estate,” according to a statement from the office of Prime Minister Mark Phillips.
Guyana has several online news outlets operated by journalists and conventional media as well as social media influencers. There are also several talk shows on Facebook that are operated by government and opposition parliamentarians.
At a two-day conference to mark World Press Freedom Day 2022, President Irfaan Ali and the minister responsible for public affairs along with a number of government-aligned and sympathetic panelists sought to highlight what they consider to be responsible and good reporting.
Stabroek News editor Anand Persaud and Guyana Press Association executive member Denis Chabrol have vehemently opposed several attempts to redefine what constitutes press freedom, the role of the media and the concepts Communication.
The conference ended without any recommendations.
The GPA issued a strongly worded statement on Thursday criticizing the government for going beyond journalism. “Much of the debate and disagreement at the conference seemed to stem from the decision of the organizers to confuse journalism, public relations practice and social media influence. Whether it was the intention or not, it was a big mistake because each category of communication has its own role,” the organization said.
The Association also said the government should take some of the blame for a reduction in journalism standards with a greater focus on social media influencers. “If politicians on the other side of the line claim to have a modicum of interest in raising the standard of journalism, then they should immediately stop using social media influencers in place of journalists. To continue to do so is to contribute to the degradation of journalism on the altar of the opportunity of reach, likes and shares. In this way, sections of the public are led to believe that such social media content conforms to globally accepted standards of journalism. ”
At the conference, the GPA representative challenged the government to use the BBC editorial standards and charter as models for state media to serve the public interest. The Association stressed the importance of respecting the ethics and principles of journalism.