Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Dr Steve Surujbally yesterday denounced recent attacks on the media, saying that they are not conducive to the atmosphere for upcoming elections.
“…Vile and virulent attacks on the media in recent times have not gone unnoticed,” Surujbally told a news conference, where he emphasized that GECOM does not desire to manage the polls in an atmosphere of hostility, rancor and turbulence.
“Attacking the media in general and individual media personnel in particular, to my mind, is self-destructive, nation-wrecking, counterproductive and, quite frankly, inane and the confounded nonsense must cease and it must cease immediately.”
Surujbally did not identify any particular antagonist, but his comments come in wake of President Bharrat Jagdeo’s recent attacks on sections of the media, which he has labeled “carrion crows” and “vultures.“ In addresses at successive rallies for the incumbent PPP/C, Jagdeo singled out Stabroek News, Kaieteur News, CNS Channel Six and Demerara Waves, which he accused of being “henchmen” of the opposition. The Guyana Press Association (GPA), the regional Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) and Reporters Without Borders have condemned the president’s comments, which they said were “inflammatory” and “designed to endanger the lives of media practitioners and their families.”
The GECOM Chairman was skeptical about any possible justifications for the “vile” attacks. “Perhaps the perpetrators feel that they are compelled to react to a perceived media attack. I don’t buy that. Morality, maturity and decency dictate that we must not carry out elections in a tit-for-tat environment. The grand tradition of human reflection must not disavow the very core of decorum and common sense,” he added.
According to Surujbally, attacks on the media are counter productive for Guyana as a country that has worked hard to earn an admirable reputation on election issues among international bodies, which have even used GECOM as a consultant to deal with similar issues in other countries.
Surujbally also told media operatives that GECOM expected no less of the media than to report honestly from a non-partisan perspective, compartmentalizing and separating self from work. He noted that the media has the ability to shape the manner in which the public absorbs information about the elections and is an entity with far reaching influence. In this vein, he urged journalists to let their work be guided by the spirit and intent of the media code of conduct for the elections, saying that their adherence would contribute meaningfully to maintaining a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.