I have read this Kaieteur News article and it has caused me to become concerned. Perhaps it is that I am misunderstanding the position of Mr. Adam Harris, the Editor-in-Chief of Kaieteur News.
If it is his contention that journalists should be admitted into Presidential press conferences solely on the basis of a Guyana Press Association general media accreditation then he is being most unreasonable.
All across the globe press conferences hosted by national leaders are closed door affairs and entry is restricted to pre-approved journalists only. Further it is customary and best practice for entertainment, sporting and other events to have a media accreditation process of their own in order to ensure that only relevant media attend and media do not abuse the privileges. Journalist usually have to go through an application process during which they are screened and sometimes even have background checks conducted. They are often asked to provide supplementary information from their media house to verify that they are legitimate. Surely in his long career as an editor Mr. Harris would have prepared and signed such letters for reporters working in his newsroom. Of certainty too is that Mr. Harris would have himself applied for such specialised accreditation in order to gain entry into conferences and other events which he would have covered as a reporter.
If Mr. Harris is contending that any journalist with a general GPA media accreditation should be allowed into a Presidential press conference then he is actually saying that any sports reporter, cub reporter or beat reporter should have the right to march into President Jagdeo’s press conference. That is a ludicrous proposition.
The Office of the President (be it with President Jagdeo as President or another individual) has every right to accredit, separate and apart from the general GPA accreditation, journalists to attend its press conferences and other media events and to refuse entry to journalists who it deems inappropriate providing that such a decision is based on a list of rules, regulations and conditions which are not unreasonable and undemocratic. In fact OP is duty bound to institute such a media accreditation process, principally to protect the integrity of Presidential press conferences which ought not be invaded by journalists who are not qualified to cover such a high profile event. In a similar manner, the journalists who are properly accredited to cover Presidential press conferences are, more than likely, unsuitable to cover other events such as entertainment and sporting and are very likely to be denied accreditation for such events unless in extraordinary circumstances.
What might be a fair argument from Mr. Harris is that for the OP accreditation process to be fair and unbiased.
I am not certain what the criteria are at the moment but I would expect that OP, at the outset of the tenure of this government, would have contacted all major media houses in Guyana and asked them to submit for accreditation the names of reporters, photographers, cameramen and audio technicians/engineers for accreditation to all OP media events. I would have expected that the media houses would have complied with diligence.
There should also be a limit to the number of persons accredited to each media house. In the event of journalists leaving the profession, being reassigned etc a simple letter from the media house can be dispatched to OP indicating same and a request made for another journalist to be accredited to cover the OP media events in the departing journalist’s place.
Mistakes are common and accidents happen so OP must certainly cater for journalists, from time to time, in the rush to get about their business misplacing or forgetting their accreditation and there should be a temporary accreditation process in place. This too, is common practice. So in the event a journalist turns up for a press event minus his accreditation with a plausible and reasonable excuse – such as was apparently the case with Mr. Gary Eleazer of KN – OP can quickly issue him with a temporary accreditation (which is returned at the end of the event) for that event once it can be verified that he was on the list of approved journalists.
It is OP’s absolute prerogative to decide if it wishes for GINA (or another agency for that matter) to produce the accreditation for all OP press events. This again is standard practice. Media accreditation processes are routinely subcontracted out to other specialist agencies.
Therefore I find it bizarre that Mr. Harris would issue an instruction to his staff to refuse the GINA accreditation (presuming that this accreditation is related only to OP media events).
If it is Mr. Harris’ contention that OP is of the view that GINA should be the sole body which determines who is a journalist in Guyana and as such be tasked with issuing the general media accreditation (which is currently being properly and rightfully issued by the GPA) and that such a position is undemocratic and flies in the face of the Chapultepec Declaration – to which Guyana is a signatory – then he is in perfect order.
Update: I have just seen this Guyana Chronicle article which offers some clarifications. It appears as though, as I had suspected, OP has designated GINA to issue media accreditation for journalists who cover media events at OP and State House. As outlined above this is not unusual practice. However it is odd and irrational that a journalist who has difficulty presenting his/her GINA issued accreditation cannot access a temporary media accreditation. Surely OP would have a list of accredited media in its possession and the officers there can act accordingly should a journalist be temporarily unable to present the GINA issue media accreditation. If this was an oversight then surely OP will need to review.