Voice of Guyana engaged in `blatant electioneering’ on polling day morning – Media monitors

The media monitors report for the period November 28, 2011 to December 15 has castigated the state-owned Voice of Guyana for airing a report on the morning of the general election which gave the results of a poll done by Vishnu Bisram.

Said the Media Monitoring Unit which operated from GECOM: “To all intent and purpose it was a foolhardy and crude attempt to sway voter preference in a certain direction. The State Media’s (Radio) observed engagement in electioneering on Voting Day cannot, should not, and will not be swept under the carpet as a minor misdemeanor”

The Bisram poll had stated that the PPP/C would win between 52% to 60% of the vote. The PPP/C eventually won with 48.6% of the vote. The opposition parties had complained incessantly prior to the elections about the state media’s bias in favour of the ruling party and how it was campaigning unashamedly for it. In light of the hung Parliament, sources say the MMU finding will likely up the pressure on the government for reforms in the way the state media is managed and run.

The MMU report released today said that on the morning of November 28, 2011, the announcer who presented the news on the Voice of Guyana newscast at 06:00hrs, read a news report which had implications for voters.

“To be more precise, the announcer (name withheld) as part of his hosting duties read the following “news” item:

`The latest opinion tracking poll conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) shows the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic heading for another victory over the three opposition challengers. It shows that the PPP/C is winning 52% of the votes which can go up to  60% with A Partnership for National Unity at 32%, the Alliance for Change at 14% and The United Force less than 1%. This suggests that the PPP/C is about 19% in front of APNU and 27% ahead of the AFC. NACTA said given the undecided voters, soft support for AFC and the marginal variance, it is not impossible for the PPP/C to get close to 60% and APNU to get close to 40%.’

“As incredible as it may seem from a journalistic standpoint, the above is a true and accurate account of what was actually reported as news on State Radio on the Morning of Voting in the just concluded 2011 elections. Putting the Report in context, the Unit harbors absolutely no misgiving in labeling the “news” item as a blatant act of electioneering lacking the sophistication of subtlety.  To all intent and purpose it was a foolhardy and crude attempt to sway voter preference in a certain direction. The State Media’s (Radio) observed engagement in electioneering on Voting Day cannot, should not, and will not be swept under the carpet as a minor misdemeanor, since it was a flagrant violation primarily of  Section K of the Media Code which explicitly states that the publication of poll results should always be accompanied by information regarding the `…date, location, financial backing, methodology used, number of persons interviewed, questions asked and margin of error…’ Secondly, and more importantly, even without the Code serving as a compass, it was downright unethical and a breach of all the known tenets of professional journalism to indulge in that sort of behavior on such a critical day in the country’s history. Undoubtedly, it is the kind of behavior that gives journalism a bad name. The Unit holds the editor of the newscast responsible for the airing of the news item and would like to urge him/her to be more sensitive to, and knowledgeable of the societal dynamics at play when selecting news items for future broadcasts, especially during the current post-elections period in the country”, the MMU report said.

 

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