EDITORIAL: Upholding democratic norms
Holding constitutionally due elections – or even snap polls within a five-year term – has evolved as virtually an institutionalised pattern of multi-party democratic governance within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
In addition, following the political aberration that was Guyana’s for a pretty long period, it is now the norm for national elections in CARICOM states to be independently supervised by invited regional and international observers.
Consequently, Guyana, which will hold new parliamentary and presidential elections on November 28 has already extended the official invitations.
This will also be the case when Jamaica holds an expected snap national poll early next year.
In this region’s post-independence history, increasing attention has been paid to the role of the media – private and state-owned – to ensure fair and balanced coverage for elections and to steer away from reporting and commentary that could inflame passions and result in unlawful behaviour, as occurred in some elections in, for instance, Jamaica and Guyana.
In Guyana, it has also become the pattern, following the restoration of internationally supervised free and fair elections in October 1992, for media to sign a Code of Conduct that could help in avoiding conflicts and enhance coverage consistent with established ethical norms of the journalism profession.
It is in the context of the responsible role expected of the media in Guyana for the next elections that we regard as a mature decision by President Bharrat Jagdeo to withdraw the recently instituted four-month suspension of the broadcast licence of the privately-owned CNS TV6 to take effect instead from December 1 – two days after the poll.
The suspension, which had resulted from allegedly defamatory statements broadcast last May 4 against then chairman of Guyana’s Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), Bishop Juan Edghill, that prompted him to institute legal proceedings, was deemed to be a “gross violation” of the terms of the broadcasting licence. It also followed a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB).
However, in the face of protests by civic society groups and the political opposition, Jagdeo said the action by the government could not now be correctly viewed as having to do with the elections.
It is, of course, difficult to avoid such a linkage. Yet, Jagdeo’s decision does reflect political maturity and respect for divergent opinions in a multi-party democracy.