A NEWSPAPER represents the interests, outlook (and prejudices) of those who own and control it. However, the debate begins, rather than ends, with this assumption. For how those persons perceive themselves and their paper is not pre-ordained. The vast difference in standards and styles between papers of similar political outlook in the West, and closer home in the Caribbean, testifies to that fact.
Whether a newspaper is balanced and tolerant or scurrilous and aggressive in its approach to events and people ‘‘in the news,” whether it presents news as objectively as possible or attempts to shove its opinions down the readers’ throat by printing comment as news, whether, indeed it has any respect for the truth at all, are matters that depend on people, not ideologies or economic
We believe that there is both a need and room for an independent newspaper in Guyana, which submits itself to the rigour of professional standards of journalism. By “independent” we do not mean free of any perception of the interest and opinions of its owners. No paper is, or ever will be, so “free.” We mean free of direction by any outside institution.
After twenty years of independence, we have learnt that a democratic society does not spring full blown from a written constitution, especially one inherited in more or less a standard form. A constitution may enhance a democratic culture but cannot create one. The real building blocks of democracy are independent institutions which express themselves openly and operate freely. These groups include political parties, trade unions, business associations, religious bodies and an independent Press and radio.
We believe in and will work for a free and open society in which the rule of law prevails. We believe that and independent and responsible newspaper can make an important contribution to the political and cultural life of a society and can accustom people to thinking for themselves and forming their own opinions.
In the last year, there has been a definite liberalization of media policy under President Hoyte as evidenced by the grant of licences to opposition parties and Catholic Standard to import presses even through no foreign exchange has been made available for such presses or for newsprint. In his well-known interview with Mr. Ken Gordon, the Managing Director of Trinidad Express, in February his year, the President had said “there is nothing in our laws to prevent Guyanese from forming a company and running a newspaper. There is nothing that prevents that. “It is partly that statement that created the impetus for this venture.”
We will be guided by the traditional principles of good journalism and will make every effort to get the relevant facts and check both sides of a story before publishing. Where interviews are refused, we will say so. We have no ties with and will not automatically support or oppose any political party or other social group. We will approach each national issue as objectively as possible.
We do not see ourselves as crusaders to except perhaps for the cause of a free and independent Press and a strong and gr self-confident citizenry. Because the role of the Press is essentially to investigate, inform and analyse, however, and because of the difficult conditions that now prevail, it is likely that we will on many occasions perform a critical function and will often have to adopt an adversarial the role. So be it. Nevertheless, our underlying objective will at all times to be constructive and to point to viable alternatives where possible.
The situation in Guyana is complex and pa there are no easy solutions. Certainly, we do not have one. We hope to encourage sober dialogue and the development of a sensible debate on the economy. The economic situation is at present so desperate as to make this an absolute priority. The economy is dominated by the State sector. The record of production is not encouraging and management resources are stretched very thin. We feel that the emphasis now should be on private sector development and on the dismantling of that part of the overgrown bureaucracy’ which inhibits the development of new industries by businessmen.
We see ourselves as regionalists but feel that Caricom has never transcended a colonial and bureaucratic perspective. Regional leaders pay lip service to it and have treated it as a limited opportunity for trade but the whole question of regional integration and its practicality in terms of distance between the territories and lack of communication remains to be seriously examined, and placed once more on the agenda in the light of recent developments. In principle, we support the regional idea and its strengthening by institutions such as a Caribbean Economic Commission and a Caribbean Court of Appeal.
We do not intend to publish a highbrow newspaper for a limited readership. Our aim will be to write simply and clearly and to cater for all tastes. Nor do we wish to be seen as too solemn. In our opinion, it is an important function of a newspaper to entertain and to cater for as many interests as possible. With this in mind, we hope to spread our net widely.
Given the foreign exchange constraints under which we are operating and our method of production — our paper is printed in Trinidad — we will have an artificially early deadline and it will not always be possible for us to cover last- minute developments. We will do our best to overcome this problem. Eventually, we hope to acquire our own Press and to graduate to a daily newspaper printed and published here. We have had to raise bridging finance to pay the Express for printing and would like to acknowledge our gratitude to the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based institute, which has provided the funds through the Institute of North-South Issues.
Finally, we wish to thank the Caribbean Press and their regional institution, the CPBA for their encouragement and in particular Mr. Ken Gordon, the managing director of the Trinidad Express, without whose continued support we would not have got off the ground. ‘ ,