President Jagdeo certainly sang a loud and lusty swan song at the recent CARICOM Heads meeting in St. Kitts….what with his admonition of hoteliers in the region for grumbling about high taxes, taking a swipe at the West Indies Cricket Board on the Chris Gayle issue and calling for a “good news” television station in the Caribbean.
On the issue of a Caribbean “good news” Channel, however, the President’s local media advisers may have thrown a serious banana skin under his shoe since there is little doubt that “good news” in this instance appears suspiciously like a euphemism for government propaganda.
Cut it out, Mr. Jagdeo! Let’s not start infecting the rest of the region with our local bad habits. We have enough of our own “good news” media here in Guyana and a fat lot of good it is doing for media freedom.
Interestingly, Trinidad and Tobago already appears to have baulked at President Jagdeo’s “good news” channel idea, pointing out such a creation is probably best-funded by the private sector which, of course, is not quite what Mr. Jagdeo has in mind. He says that CARICOM should put up the money even if it means that Heads look at trimming some projects to accommodate “GOOD NEWS TV.” After all, Mr. Jagdeo is never short of choice words for sections of our own private media in Guyana. Of “some Guyanese newspapers” he says: “They will put a story of someone losing a hand, if they don’t have crime. If there’s nothing bad they’ll recall a crime story and put it there.”
Come on Mr. Jagdeo! That a low blow if ever there was one. On which day these days is there not a new crime to be reported on? As for “nothing bad” Mr. President that surely is a laugh. If you keep your ears sufficiently close to the ground every day you can hear something bad in the Republic. Fraud, corruption, wife-beating, woman-killing, violent armed robberies, kidnappings! You name it Mr. President and one or another of those types of incidents occurs in our country EVERY DAY. In fact, the situation as far as BAD NEWS is concerned would be decidedly worse except for the fact that some occurrences simply never come to light.
So Mr. President if you seriously think that selling the Caribbean abroad via a “good news” television station run by Caribbean governments will work – or if that is the advice that you are receiving from your media people – you should think again. As an IT-savvy President, Mr. Jagdeo, you surely ought to know that the “negative news” that is carried by the |private sector” media is available on the internet and, moreover, Mr. President, your advisers surely ought to be able to tell you that your CARICOM-run “good news” TV Channel, probably managed by Dr. Prem Misir will probably not last an hour among extra-regional audiences. You have to understand, Mr. President that with the best will in the world anything that has the label government on it – even if you put “good news” in brackets next to it will be translated PROPAGANDA; and our historical experiences with propaganda and state media control – particularly here in Guyana – have thought us to favour the private media with all the faults that you say they have.
And if you are thinking of putting your “GOOD NEWS” TV to a vote in CARICOM territories, Mr. President, do remember that there is built-in majority there like there is in the Republic’s National Assembly. The other thing that you need to bear in mind, Mr. President, is that you would be ill-advised to sully your legacy, such as it is, with a proposal which, in effect is little more than advocacy of tighter regional state control of media.