By Dr. David Hinds
One of the consequences of the imposed change of government on August 2, 2020 has been the consolidation of a One-Party media landscape in Guyana. Readers may ask what is a One-Party media landscape? A One-Party media landscape is one in which both the traditional public and private media give positive coverage to one party while denying the same to other parties and interests presumed to be favorable to them. Second, these media carry ad nauseam the narratives of the favored party while silencing those of the others.
I submit that this is the first time in Guyana’s post-colonial history that we have had a media landscape that is so one-sided. This did not obtain even under the authoritarian orders of Forbes Burnham and Bharrat Jagdeo largely because the independent private media remained independent. This ensured a plural media landscape. And in a plural society like Guyana, a One-Party media landscape ultimately becomes a One-Race media landscape.
The two independent daily newspapers, the Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News, openly supported the Opposition in the last decade of the PPP’s tenure. This was in part driven by the diabolical governance of the PPP that threatened to destroy the socio-political fabric of the country and the concomitant search for an alternative order. So, I think those two newspapers were less pro-PNC and more anti-PPP. In fact, the Stabroek News hardly hid its support for the AFC while Kaieteur News tended to be more pro-APNU. The lesson there is that neither paper was enamored of the PNC. Of note is that despite their anti-PPP stance, they gave full and equal coverage to the PPP.
So, it was not surprising that once it became clear that Mr. Granger and his Kitchen Cabinet had opted to govern not as a coalition but as the PNC, those newspapers quickly turned against them. This meant that along with the Guyana Times there emerged a growing imbalance of narratives in the print media during the Coalition’s tenure in office. The Coalition depended on the Guyana Chronicle for positive coverage as previous governments did, but that paper was not even the paper of choice for Coalition supporters. It meant that the government’s message was not reaching the critical mass in the society. The foolish decision to terminate the Lincoln Lewis and David Hinds columns did not help the Coalition as the two columnists may have had some degree of standing in the African Guyanese community.
It is my view that Stabroek and Kaieteur were ultimately co-opted or willingly became part of Regime Change. After March 2, they made a complete shift and began to systematically remove anti-PPP sentiments from their pages. They accommodated the pro-PPP narrative about the elections while silencing the counter-narrative. Kaieteur News, for example, has accommodated Kissoon’s libelous outpourings and obscene racialized attacks on Black Leaders. There has been no editorial tempering of Kissoon’s attacks despite concerns raised in and out of the media.
My column and Lewis’ were pushed out of Kaieteur for not supporting the pro-rigging cabal. I was told that my columns were no longer in line with the editorial views of the paper. I never libeled anyone or used my column to abuse anyone, yet I was not in line with the paper’s policy. One has to assume then that Kissoon’s daily libel and abuse of persons with whom he disagrees are in line with Kaieteur News’ editorial policy.
Over at Stabroek News, the situation is equally grim. There is no abrasive columnist there, but the bias is not only what it publishes, but in what it refuses to publish. For, example, It hardly publishes anything I write and as a rule does not cover the releases from the WPA, the party to which I belong. Only recently, Dr. Henry Jeffery pulled his column from the paper after parts critical of the PPP’s election narrative were deleted. I have not paid attention to the Guyana Times and Chronicle because these papers never made any claim to being independent.
This One-Party media landscape has serious consequences for Guyana going forward. Such a landscape is diametrically opposed to the notion of Ethnic Pluralism. To deny coverage of and to the representatives of one ethnic group in a country where the private media benefit from taxpayers’ money via government advertisements is unfair to say the least. But more than that, if that situation is allowed to continue unchecked, then it eventually becomes a human rights violation as the USA State Department has hinted in its 2021 Human Rights report. It is not too late for those two newspapers to change course. A newspaper has a right to like and support a political party, but is not democratic to impose that bias on the flow of information.
More of Dr. Hinds’ commentaries can be found on his website guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news and on his Facebook page Hinds’Sight. Catch him on Facebook on Thursdays at 7 pm for Politics 101 with Dr. David Hinds.