Transcript of the address by His Excellency, Brigadier David Granger, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, on the occasion of the Annual Media Brunch and to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Guyana Press Association, at State House 2020.01.05
President David Granger: Mr. Mark Archer; Honourable Khemraj Ramjattan, Vice President and Minister of Public Security; Honourable Sydney Allicock, Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs; Honourable Dr. Karen Cummings; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance; Director General, Joseph Harmon; Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams; other dignitaries; President of the Guyana Press Association, Ms. Nazima Raghubir; other Executive Members of the Guyana Press Association; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen:
As Mark pointed out, I’m a man of my word, last year when I said we’d meet again in January 2020 people felt that there was an element of hyperbole, but here I am. I wouldn’t make any other prophecies, but I’m a man of my word. Happy New Year to all of you. I ask you very earnestly to continue to work to keep this great Association alive and performing the role as the watchdog in our country. Happy decade! This is the third decade of this millennium and I hope that you have a happy decade of successful work in the media and, of course, happy 75th anniversary.
I promised last year that this anniversary year I will assist the Press Association to publish the history of the press in Guyana. It is here, more or less, there are some strange images inside, there is one with Enrico Woolford with something on his head; Father Morrison, Bert Wilkinson, again he has stuff on his head too, Sharif Khan, so it will be out sooner rather than later. Right now, it is up to about 134 pages, it’s more or less complete, including an index and all of the references and sources.
The book is arranged into four main parts; the fifth part is still incomplete; the first part I call the ‘status’ part – It’s not going to be a lecture; I wouldn’t delay your brunch – the first part I call the ‘status’ part. This is the colonial era between 1793 and 1840 which is dominated by the planter class at that time, and people like you all couldn’t have a voice, couldn’t express yourself in the media.
From the time of Emancipation we went into what they call a pluralist phase of the press between 1840 and 1940. At that time, there were Portuguese newspapers in Portuguese language; African newspapers; Indian newspapers in addition to other news outlets. So it was a very complex period in which the people who are coming to Guyana under different means, either those in Indentureship, those in enslavement or other migrants wanted to express themselves, so during this period between 1840 and 1940 there were a lot of ethnic papers in which people articulated their grievances and expectations of different ethnic groups as well as other business groups and so on.
The third phase mostly from 1940 to 1970, is what they call the nationalist period during which Guyanese like other people in the Caribbean, yearned for independence. They yearned to be free and you’d see that the newspapers gave voice to these persons, those who came back from the war, and who experienced other countries particularly, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka becoming free and Guyanese started to yearn for that freedom as well.
So, we were in a nationalist period in which the aspirations of the masses of the people were heard, were given voice through the press. At that time of course, there was no television and radio was very limited. After 1970, we went into what generally could be described as a socialist period between 1970 and 1990, that 20-year period. This is the time when we saw, some of you may recall, development support communication. This is the time of the new international information order around the world, not just in Guyana, but people felt that the domination of the international media by Reuters by Agence France-Presse, other big companies in the developed countries did not adequately represent the views of the newly independent states so the new international information order was meant to give voice to the newly independent countries and Guyana was part of that.
In Guyana particularly, because of the size of the country, a country which is bigger than England and Scotland combined; it was realised that many of the people in the outlying areas did not have access to the media, the press, radio, television and this concept of development support communication was introduced so that the developments which were taking place in the country – I’m just saying this is the theory – were reported in the media and actually, the training courses at the University of Guyana were meant to propose and promote this notion of development support communications.
After that period, we went into what I call a reformist period and I think we’re still in this reformist period, which is the fifth phase of the development of the media in Guyana – from 1990 to the present time, 2020, in which there was greater liberalisation and, of course, the emergence of completely new media which were unheard of before television particularly and, of course, the digital media. So, those are the five phases of the evolution of the media in Guyana and this book will deal with most of what I have discussed just now. Unfortunately, my present occupation doesn’t give me the opportunity to do the research which I would like to do and much of the writing here will conclude in the first decade of this millennium, but I will complete it. I’ve just had some discussions with your president, Nazima, and she seems to be doing some work on her own and we will see if we could maybe add to it so that new entrants into the profession will be guided by what occurred in the past and will try to make the future much better.
So, it’s here! You can see the posters. It’s not fake; it’s a real book with pictures and references and so on. I brought along this Pocket Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus. Your president asked if I would make a presentation to her or to the media and well, I just opened it at ‘F’ – fair: treating people equally; equitable, honest, impartial, unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral, even-handed. Can you imagine? When somebody speaks of fairness they are speaking about impartiality, unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral, even-handed.
On the other hand, on the same page, you have ‘fake’. ‘Fair and ‘fake’. Fake: counterfeit, forged, fraudulent, sham, pirated, false, bogus. I would urge that before we issue statements, we check with this little book – I will leave it with Nazima – and see what fair means I would urge that your statements in future be guided by accurate representation of the words of the President.
So, my colleagues, my friends from media, welcome again to State House. Welcome again to this Media Brunch. I still hold although the Minister of Finance has not been able to introduce a Budget for 2020, I still hold to my vow that I am prepared to make an annual subvention to the Guyana Press Association, coming from my funds called the National Endowment For Science and Technology (NEST), to assist the Guyana Press Association without any interference from me or the Government, to conduct training in the course of 2020. So, once again welcome; happy new year; you will have a record not of the Press Association but of the press in Guyana from 1793 up to at least 2006 when I was called to other office.
May God bless you.