Solving the two crucial challenges that confront our nation, in the ethnic insecurity showing up in our politics, and pervasive, endemic corruption, calls for an ethical, independent, professional and investigative national media industry.
Democracy flowers and bears good fruits under the watching eyes of highly informed voters at free and fair elections. But the democratic system also needs a fair justice system, and a sound media culture.
The role of the solid newspaper in the success and progress of a democratic society is indisputable.
With the rapid fall of newspaper journalism, especially investigative journalism, over the past couple of decades, globally, democratic societies see themselves becoming victims of draconian government.
Journalism suffered terrible damage when marketers invaded the newsroom in the name of profit. So globally, we are seeing the demise of independent, investigative journalism. And society suffers for such an aberration. Government inherently sees this pillar of the democratic system as a threat.
In our Guyanese society, a free and independent national media holding government to account for its actions would go a long way to stifle ethnic fears, and curb the culture of corruption. This culture of corruption now constitutes a crisis of frightening proportions.
Like parasitic monsters gnawing at the heart and soul of our country, these two challenges handicap us as a people, leaving us paralysed, unable to convert our latent potential into real progress.
How do we solve these two obstacles to our progress?
Guyanese ponder for answers, perplexed and puzzled. We know that to move forward we must design solutions to these monumental problems.
How do we come up with those solutions?
Commentators across this land, and overseas as well, express frustration that we seem so close to embarking on becoming a developed nation, yet we keep falling away.
We must design solutions to our problems. We cannot live expecting that these problems would one day just fade away like magic. We must deliberately design a way forward, a way of overcoming these obstacles. Ethnic fear and the culture of corruption block our way, and stop us from advancing.
We must build a new path, create a new way that circumvents these social diseases.
The new generation of Guyanese expects us to work hard to solve our problems, instead of generation after generation of Guyanese falling into the same pit, over and over again.
In these early days of the 21st century, how could we rid our nation of these deep, gaping wounds?
Corruption creeps across this society, its tentacles suffocating institutions like a cancer eating away at the body politic.
And it does not just affect government. Corruption thrives with deep roots in the private sector. Too many business owners show little respect for morals and ethics in conducting their affairs.
In fact, many of these business owners set out to make profits at whatever cost to the rest of society, and invest their hefty profits overseas. Very few business owners invest back into communities in this country, or demonstrate a real sensibility for a just society.
All kinds of questions show up when we contemplate how to move forward.
Where do we start? Who’s responsible for cleaning up the mess? How do we design a solution?
From all appearances, it seems that the population expects that government would act to make things work. And government after government fails to tackle these problems, with both the ethnic insecurity and corruption monsters becoming more and more vicious.
So the responsibility for generating solutions must come from the population. And the voice of the land is its national media.
Unless we find a visionary, ethical leader who would make the sacrifices necessary to transform this nation, we must work from ground up to transform ourselves. A sure way forward is to build a strong, dynamic, ethical and professional media culture, where citizens feel empowered, with an effective voice.
Our current leaders seem to love the status quo. They may even be propping up the existing system. Too many seem to benefit from the parasitic problems of ethnic insecurity and widespread corruption.
History will praise late President Desmond Hoyte for his seven years of leadership that completely transformed this country. He stemmed the downward spiral of our economic fortunes.
Hoyte opened up the country to its citizens, allowing the private newspaper, Stabroek News, to give voice to the people of their land. He opened up the airwaves for independent TV operations.
His single act of opening up the country for the existence of the Stabroek News allowed David de Caires to make a defining difference in our history. This newspaper made a great difference for this nation. Thankfully, it continues to play a significant role in national affairs.
Since free and fair elections got re-instituted in 1992, our society has suffered from two major aberrations: a tainted justice system, and a hostile stance from government officials towards the independent media.
State officials seem to love launching lawsuits against media houses, and even this newspaper was sued by no less than the former president of this country.
People of this country no longer have access to a functioning, empowered Ombudsman’s Office. Few citizens trust the justice system. Cries of government corruption and ethnic marginalization persist.
As both government and Parliament sit in passive and stony silence doing nothing about government’s abuse of State media resources, the onus lies with the independent professional media to exorcise these demons that stalk our land.
Investigative journalism would do so much to stem the pervasive corruption that eats away at the core of our nation. Journalism that tells the human-interest stories of our people, of their fears and their struggles and their triumphs, would go a far way to highlight the plight of the marginalized and those suffering gross poverty.
With a voice in the national independent media, people feel confident to demand a government that caters to the people, rather than resign passively to one that lords it over the land.