Eyewitness: Freedom…of the press

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

We just commemorated “World Press Freedom Day”, so there are all sorts of hullabaloo, analysis, discussion and commemoration to mark the occasion. But we all know, when the day is done, it’ll all go back to “the way we were”. But there’ll be no Streisand crooning mellifluously and soulfully in the background; just the same deeply divided press that’s a reflection of our deeply divided politics!! There never really was an idyllic time in our history in which we can bask the way Streisand did, was there?!! This “deep division” has now become the distinctive feature of the way we were – and are!

The press was birthed simultaneously with the first striving for democracy. That ended with the lopping off of some heads of kings!! Its self-appointed job was to keep an eye on those who took over from the kings, to remind the rest of the “citizenry”, in case they showed signs of bringing back the nasty old days!! But, as with everything else, the press itself inevitably became a power in itself as it curated what the people were told!! To help define people’s reality is to control even those in government!! And the latter obviously knew this, as they took steps – and still take steps – to pressure the press!!

As far as our history’s concerned, D’Aguiar’s Chronicle pushed his line and then his party’s, the anti-communist UF. And after Burnham was ushered into office, he nationalised the Chronicle and Graphic to support his Government’s excesses – and this continues to this day. Why should we be surprised?? But Burnham went a bit too far when he insisted there was a “free press” in Guyana – since the PPP’s Mirror and the Catholic Standard existed. That he banned newsprint so they couldn’t PUBLISH was just an irrelevant detail!!

And we come to the present. The Opposition’s whining that the “mainstream media” are biased against them!! What stuff and nonsense!! All media are “biased”, if one accepts that every person and institution inevitably has a perspective!! What the Opposition should do is run its own media. But HOLD IT!!! Don’t they do this?? Don’t they have a TV station -Ch 9 – that gives them time? Didn’t they launch a newspaper to get then column inches?? Didn’t their supporters get oodles of radio stations?

And, more importantly, haven’t they beaten the PPP to the new “big thing” in media – social media? And are curating the news even more one-sidedly than has ever happened in the history of Guyana?? Unlike the “mainstream” media, social media’s still pretty much a Wild West operation.
And imagine they’re screaming bloody murder in the developing attempt to regulate them!! But then the Opposition HAS to oppose, no?

…has a price

Having passed through the mills of slavery and Indentureship – and then through the PNC’s two-decade dictatorship, all of which ground very finely, thank you!! – you’d think Guyanese would be very protective of their freedom. But the hitch is, there’s a price for defending freedom that folks who want to enjoy it have to pay. And thank goodness there seems a willingness to pay that price – at long last. There was quite a lull after Walter Rodney paid the ultimate price back in 1980!!

And don’t even bring up those so-called Buxton “Freedom Fighters”, who created killing fields for a decade after 2002! Even persons who’d fought alongside Rodney publicly declared, “not in my name”!! Fortunately for Guyana, we seem to’ve developed a democratic culture after that killing wave – and Governments have been alternating with regularity since.
The last attempt to deny our democratic freedom was successfully thwarted by some “Defenders of Democracy”.
They paid the price, but they’re waiting for that medal!!

…to make money

Exxon just announced that they made US$4.5billion in profits for the first quarter of 2022. Now, the “renegotiators” will be having a field day. While it’s isn’t all from us – maybe EXXON will do the right thing?