Gov’t pulls plug on media monitoring unit

The government has followed through with plans to pull the plug on the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) Media Monitoring Unit, which will wind up operations at the end of the month.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon has advised the United Nations Development Programme to halt funding to the unit, which it finances as part of its democratic governance projects. No official explanation has been given for the decision to either GECOM or the UNDP, a source told Stabroek News. Office of the President (OP) spokesman Kwame McCoy, when asked about the reason behind the move last evening, said the question would have to be directed to Luncheon, who would have a press briefing this week.

In May, GECOM Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally had written Luncheon, making a case for the continuance of the unit. He noted that too much had been invested in the unit to allow it to collapse and cited its role in ensuring peaceful elections in 2006.

At a meeting on self regulation last year sponsored by the Guyana Press Association and the Canadian High Commission, it was noted that the unit had produced objective reports on media houses’ performance relative to the existing Code of Conduct and other relevant standards, during and since the 2006 election.

Representatives of the private and state media earlier this year signed on to an updated code, in anticipation of the holding of local government elections. Those elections have since been ruled out.

The unit’s objectives include monitoring of the media and reporting on breaches of the principles enshrined in the Media Code of Conduct and norms associated with international best practices in journalism; promoting the raising of professional standards in the media with regards to the reporting of political, electoral, governance and general social issues; encouraging equity, balance and fairness in news reporting; influencing media owners/operatives to abide by the principles enshrined in the Media Code of Conduct; and supporting GECOM’s Public Relations Department in information gathering and improving the organisation’s public image.

The UNDP has said that through the work of the unit GECOM has succeeded in bringing about “a more responsive media,” beginning with the development and implementation of a media code of conduct.

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