Head of GECOM to media: Resist the spin

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The head of the country’s elections body Saturday urged the media to practice responsible journalism “in the interest of peace and stability” as the country heads to general and regional elections.

“Sensationalised reporting is irresponsible journalism particularly when our elections is just around the corner,” Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh told media workers at a workshop to train reporters ahead of the polls.

“It evokes emotions which may very well create mistrust and violence in an already charged environment,” she stated.

The training was organised by the Guyana Press Association (GPA) and the Guyana Chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).

Some of the media workers at the training

In a period which has historically been tense, the Chairperson said the media is one of the key stakeholders in the election process. In this regard, she noted that reporters must be objective, balanced, fair and accurate.

“Resist the spin, contextualise your story, and avoid self-censorship,” she said.

United States Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch spoke of the need to be unbiased in reporting. During her speech, she said, “media all around the world can do better…on meeting the standards of neutrality.”

Some of the media workers at the training

The Ambassador spoke of the #CheckFuhYuhSelf campaign which is promoting with a link to the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) pledge for persons to “think before you share information –stop, reflect and verify.”

The campaign is aimed at providing a way for persons to identify and stop the spread of misinformation –something which is important to ensure that credible news sources maintain levels of trust.

Under the campaign, there is a list of important facts to consider before sharing an article, such as reading beyond the headline, researching the supporting sources and “facts,” checking the author’s credentials and analysing how your emotions and biases impact what you read.

The opening of the workshop was also addressed by President of the GPA, Nazima Raghubir, who also pointed out that the media needs to work to foster an environment of social cohesion.

President of the GPA, Nazima Raghubir

In an age of social media, she said it is becoming harder to present accurate information in a timely manner but it is important to remain credible.

“This has proven to be very tricky and sometimes dangerous as journalism battle with social media to present news in real-time, break stories in a competing business environment while all doing this with shrinking newsrooms.

“I feel our credibility is the only value we can have in this profession and if you are serious about what you do, what we do and real journalism, you will work to ensure that you check every box to provide fair, balanced and stories than can inform rather than incite in this period and beyond,” she noted.

The training over the two days covers the logistics about elections results, Guyana’s electoral laws and system, elections coverage, experiences with covering past elections, understanding manifestos, social media and disinformation and defamation and political coverage during elections.

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