(GuyanaChronicle)THE Guyana Press Association (GPA) in a stern statement on Monday called on the Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton to stop being “abrasive” and “evasive” with media workers.
The statement followed the release of a report from the National Communications Network (NCN) that two of its videographers were intimidated by an APNU+AFC member at one of the party’s public meetings at Arcadia Four Corner, Mocha, East Bank Demerara, on Sunday.
This encounter was the latest run-in a party member has had with media workers, and it demonstrates that persons have been adopting Norton’s posture when dealing with media workers.
Norton has developed a habit of using aggressive behaviour as a smokescreen to avoid giving direct answers to questions posed to him.
The GPA called on Norton not to continue his party’s history of negative encounters with the press.
“We urge the Leader of the Opposition Mr Aubrey Norton to first and foremost set the tone of relations with the media by being forthcoming with proper and detailed answers rather than being abrasive and evasive when asked for details and supporting evidence,” the GPA said.
The press association further said: “Gone should be the era when a TV news camera is snatched and taken to Congress Place, media workers are labelled vultures or identified in an unflattering manner by political figures at public meetings.”
The GPA condemned all acts of intimidation and attacks on media workers, and referred to the treatment of the NCN videographers as a reprehensible act of harassment and intimidation of media workers.
The GPA said media workers are to be respected by all, and called on politicians as well as other members of the public to respect the need for media workers to operate in an environment free of intimidation, particularly given that the country is approaching another election cycle. The Local Government Elections (LGEs) is set for March 13, 2023.
“The GPA expects that the media would be allowed to operate without intimidation, resentment and free from abuse, especially from those who hold political offices,” the statement said.
The two videographers and their media house, NCN, had reported the matter to the GPA on Monday.
According to the statement from NCN, the two cameramen were intimidated by APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Nima Flue-Bess, who had demanded that the cameramen present identification. However, upon stating their place of employment, the cameramen were told there was no need for them to record the event. This was in spite of other camerapersons being allowed to record the said event.
“Having stood their ground to execute their duties, MP Flue-Bess then called police officials present to have the cameramen removed. The inspector and sergeant on the scene engaged the cameramen and then threatened to seize their equipment if they recorded the event. It was only after the intervention of a senior officer that the cameramen were able to proceed with the execution of their duties,” the NCN statement said.
According to reports from the two videographers, they were confronted by several persons, denied access to sound by persons operating the sound system and were verbally abused.
The media house noted that it is particularly ironic that the main opposition would hamper state media from executing their duties, when Norton and other members would so often complain of not getting coverage from state media.
The media house also noted that this is not the first time a staff member of NCN has been attacked, intimidated and denied access to events hosted by APNU+AFC.
“During the National Toshao’s Conference in July, another camera operator who arrived to give coverage to the opposition’s reception for the leaders at Bookland Gardens, Woolford Avenue, was turned away by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Aubrey Norton. In May this year, in Linden, the NCN team was again attacked during a poorly attended walk-about the opposition had in Amelia’s Ward,” the NCN statement said.
The media house also pointed out that a member of their news team was also treated aggressively when they posed a question to the opposition leader over claims he threatened to remove Jermaine Figuera as Region 10 party chairman, after he shook hands and interacted with President, Dr Irfaan Ali while on a walk-about in Linden.
“After evading the question, Mr Norton instead attacked the company’s coverage of his party’s events. NCN forthrightly condemns these attacks by the APNU+AFC on its staff and views it as a direct attempt to intimidate and prevent them for performing their duties at a public event. This exposes a glaring double standard by the APNU + AFC which claims that NCN withholds coverage of their events,” the media outlet said.
The company said that in addition to making a report with the GPA it has also lodged a formal complaint with the Guyana Police Force (GPF).