Noting that a lot of juice is being squeezed out of his failure to hold press conferences, President David Granger yesterday assured that such a forum will soon be held.
“Yes I have made a decision ….it will be very soon. I have dealt with it extensively and you squeeze a lot of juice out of that orange but I will have a press conference”, he told reporters as he left a swearing-in ceremony for members of the Public Service Commission at State House.
When approached on the subject, he stressed that he has dealt with the matter before. “I dealt [with] it with Nazima (Raghubir, president of the Guyana Press Association). I dealt with it before”, he said. He was asked about engaging the media about a month ago but did not provide an answer. Raghubir had asked Granger when he would make himself available for a more in-depth engagement but he did not provide a clear answer instead asking for tolerance.
“As soon as I have more time I’ll engage with the media… I am asking the media to be tolerant,” he had said during a three-minute interview before his security staff got in the way as he left the Arthur Chung Conference Centre after delivering the feature address at the opening of the Caribbean Information and Communications Technology (ICT) conference and roadshow.
Told yesterday that this was some time ago and asked if he has since made a decision as to when one will be held, he responded in the affirmative. On the issue of the engagements being regular, he again responded in the affirmative. “Yes. It will be regular”, he said.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon when asked about the subject at a post-cabinet press briefing held on Monday said that he is sure that one will be held when the president’s workload lessens.
“Well the president spoke on the matter. The president said that he is going to engage the [press]. The president is in fact engaging”, he said, adding that the president would have given his position during side interviews on several of the matters reporters were raising at the post cabinet brief.
Harmon said that the president uses the opportunity at public engagements to update the media on issues that are of national importance. He said further said that while there is no formal press conference-like setting where questions can be taken from everyone, he believes that on every occasion that Granger is questioned by the media, “he has dealt with them”.
Stressing the media’s role in sharing the side comments made by the president, Harmon said “the media is representing a medium by which that information goes out to the people and so I think the press conferences of this nature [post cabinet briefs], the president has said that yes he’s going to hold them but in the meantime he continues to engage the media on every occasion that there is some event where the president attends”.
Pressed to say when such an engagement will be held, Harmon said that he could not say and later pointed out that this matter depended entirely on the president’s agenda. “I am sure that at the appropriate time the president will communicate with the press and indicate to them when he is going to do a press conference like this”, he said.
Granger has faced growing criticism over his lack of meaningful engagement with the media and several veteran journalists have said that a persistent lobby is needed to ensure there is accountability.
Granger has held two press conferences since taking office in May, 2015 and the journalists canvassed by this newspaper had pointed out that presidential press conferences are a traditional feature of the Guyanese media landscape that should not be underestimated or undermined.
The Guyana Press Association on several occasions had urged that there be more frequent engagements with the Head of State.