Media storms out GDF conference


By Devina Samaroo

Approximately 20 media operatives representing more than ten local media outfits, including the State media, stormed out of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF’s) base on Thursday morning (January 25, 2018) following gross disrespect meted out to them by the organisers of the Force’s Annual Officers’ Conference.

Journalists and cameramen united in the massive walkout after GDF personnel caused them to arrive late to the Conference while representatives from the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) were given preferential treatment.

The GDF sent out an invite to the opening ceremony of the Conference, requesting that media be present by 9:30am.

Members of the media during the walk out

Several media practitioners arrived at the Base Camp Ayanganna long before 9:30am but were forced to wait by the hut outside of the premises.

At 9:30am, the media workers were escorted into the compound and had to endure a long walk in the blistering sun – some carrying heavy equipment – only to be asked to wait in a cramped room.

While there, GDF’s Communication Officer Major Earl Edghill informed that the media will be escorted to the Conference Room later.

Several media operatives began to protest the treatment and strongly requested that the GDF make better arrangements to accommodate the media.

The cameramen reminded that it would be unwise to arrive at the Conference Room too soon to the commencement time as they would need to run cables and set up their cameras.

Nonetheless, at about 9:45am, Major Edghill escorted the media to the Conference Hall which was located all the way at the Carifesta Avenue Entrance.

Some media workers questioned why they were not allowed to use that entrance since it would have been easier but Major Edghill explained that civilians must use the front entrance at Thomas Lands. Media operatives then advised that transportation should be provided instead of being forced to endure the long walk.

Vice President of the GPA, Zoisa Fraser (r) speaking with Colonel Michael Shahoud

As media operatives neared the Conference Room, presentations could be heard on the loudspeakers – signalling that the conference had already started. The Presidential fleet of cars was already there, meaning that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President David Granger had also already arrived.

The group of media workers were then asked to wait again as Major Edghill went to check if it was okay for them to enter. He returned and guided them to the Conference Room where the presentations were already underway.

Visibly upset with the way the situation was handled, the media workers – inclusive of State and private entities – decided to boycott the Conference.

The cameramen explained that it would be impractical to run cables to the podium while speakers were already making their presentations. There was also no seating arrangement available for the media practitioners.

Some media operatives contended that they were treated unfairly since they made a great effort to arrive to the assignment on time.

As the media were walking out, GDF personnel Colonel Michael Shahoud tried to persuade them to return but they staunchly refused.

When quizzed by some media workers about why they were treated with discourtesy, Colonel Shahoud explained that there are matters of national security that the Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West would not want to be exposed to the public.

But when it was pointed out that other media were granted access, he posited that those are the GDF’s cameras in the room.

Colonel Shahoud said the media were only invited to cover the Commander-in-Chief’s address to the GDF ranks.

But when pointed out that traditionally, the media have been covering the entire opening session of the GDF Conference, Colonel Shahoud said: “for the last two years, we have included some sensitive information which we would not want members of the public to be privy to”.

The Vice President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA), Zoisa Fraser, who was also a part of the walkout, said the body will be sending out a statement on the matter shortly.

Representatives of the News Room, Demerara Waves, News Source, iNews, the Stabroek News, the Guyana Times, Nightly News, TVG Channel 28, and Prime News among others were a part of the massive walkout.

Representatives of the State-owned NCN and the Guyana Chronicle also walked out of the Conference in a bid to demand better treatment to the media.

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