News Anchor to return to set; GPA calls for probe into NCN operations
The Guyana Press Association (GPA) today met with management of the National Communications Network (NCN) to iron out issues surrounding the removal of Natasha Smith from anchoring the 6 ‘O’ Clock News and the suspension of Sport Editor, Jocelle Archibald-Hawke.
The GPA was represented at the meeting by President, Neil Marks, Secretary, Iva Wharton, Assistant Secretary/Treasurer, Fareeza Haniff and Executive Member, Nazima Raghubir. NCN was represented by its CEO, Lennox Cornette, Human Resources Manage, Tishika De Costa and Programme Manager, Ron Robinson.
At the meeting which followed a protest in front of the state-owned media, the GPA said a decision was made to have Ms. Smith return to anchoring the News.
In a statement, GPA said “Following our meeting, Ms Smith has indicated that the Human Resources Manager approached her and apologised, and asked her to return to anchoring. Ms Smith has indicated to the GPA that she is ready to do so.”
The CEO also denied that he at any time passed a directive to Ms Smith who is currently pregnant, to be replaced as the anchor of NCN’s evening news programme because of her pregnancy.
However, the GPA managed to secure a copy of the minutes of the August 8, 2016, management meeting at which the discussion centred on the production of a news montage.
The minutes read thus: “With regards to this, the CEO stated that the anchor and wardrobe should coincide with the montage. However, given the present condition of Ms. Natasha Smith, the CEO asked that a tight shot be done to remedy the view….” Following that discussion, the CEO recommended that Ms Smith be replaced.
All the senior executives of NCN that the GPA has spoken with have said they understood Mr Cornette to be speaking of Ms Smith’s pregnancy and that decision was communicated to her.
In relation to Ms. Archibald- Hawke who was suspended on August 31, 2016, for a period of one month, without pay, over comments she made against a colleague on Facebook, the CEO maintained that actions taken against the Sport Editor were warranted.
“We maintained that the suspension was harsh and needed to be rescinded,” the GPA said as it promised to pursue all avenues possible to ensure such.
Following today’s discussions, the GPA condemned the management of NCN for instituting “willy nilly” sanctions against employees without these being grounded on any statement management directive or policy. The Association urged that the practice be discontinued.
“As the state broadcaster, which is heavily funded by tax payers, NCN has an obligation to uphold the highest tenets of industrial relations practices, including providing equal opportunity and ensuring freedom from harassment, intimidation and discrimination,” the GPA said.
It issued a call for the intervention of the Chairman and Board of Director of NCN and the Office of the Prime Minister to look into the operations of the state TV.