The board of the Guyana Chronicle has decided by majority vote that it does not have the power to reverse a decision made by Editor-in-Chief Nigel Williams to fire columnist David Hinds and Lincoln Lewis. It has also noted that the decision was made at the level of its Editorial Sub-Committee.
In a press statement last evening the board indicated that the majority of the Board at its meeting on March 13 were of the view that the authority to reinstate the columnist did not reside in the Board.
“The hiring, firing, and reinstatement of columnists is within the remit of the Editor-in-Chief as per job description,” the statement said adding that the full Board maintains its earlier position that it was not consulted neither did it approve or sanction the decision to discontinue the services of Hinds and Lewis.
It however appears that its editorial sub-committee did make the decision as explanations from its members who are part of that committee and the Editor-in-Chief were requested.
The statement explained that at the meeting of the Board last Tuesday, March, 13 a full enquiry on the issue was conducted. As part of the enquiry members of the subcommittee “who were present at the Meeting where the issue was raised informally, guidance given, and acted on” proffered explanations.
Last Saturday an emergency meeting of the board was called after news broke of the decision taken to end Hinds’ ‘Hinds Sight’ column and Lewis’ ‘Eye on Guyana’ column.
The meeting however yielded no result and a decision was taken to refer the issue to a fully constituted Board on Tuesday during which a policy decision on the general direction of the content of the paper was to be decided upon.
Williams, in justifying the decision, told this newspaper on Friday that in its continued re-branding the Guyana Chronicle is seeking columnists who can write specialist pieces in areas following the country’s current development trajectory, which includes areas of oil and gas and national security and specifically border security areas, in the quest to educate the readership.
Lewis however stated that he interpreted his termination as “an act of suppression in the state-owned newspaper” and charged that there is “evidently political interference” in the operations of the newspaper.
In a statement, he explained that he was not surprised by the actions since “recent developments” suggested that the powers that be were not comfortable with his points of view, “particularly those that sought to hold them accountable as a caring, representative, inclusionary government that is just and fair.”
He argued that while the Chronicle is responsible to the people of Guyana, it continues to see government moving to manage and control.
According to Lewis, every citizen and group, regardless of political affiliation, should be given unbiased access and coverage in the people’s organ.
Lewis’ concerns were shared by Hinds, who on Friday said while he was not sure whether the decision to discontinue his column was politically motivated, as “a political person who comments on political matters, it is not out of place to speculate that the decision was politically motivated.”
Hinds also referred to his relationship with the state newspaper as uncomfortable because he is not a yes-man.
The political science professor further argued that while he supports the government, he is not muzzled by that support as he lives by the principle that support must not be blind and uncritical.
He opined that the Chronicle has slipped right back to where it was during the Bharrat Jagdeo years, becoming an unvarnished mouthpiece of the government rather than a medium where all stakeholders have equal coverage and are subjected to the same scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Williams has said that his actions were not an attempt at censorship. On Friday, he told Stabroek News that both men remain editorial contributors.
According to the EIC, the decision was an exercise of the newspaper’s prerogative to “free up space for other contributors.”