Saturday, February 17, 2018

'State-owned media means misinformation'

Caribbean New Media Group CEO Ken Ali was notably absent from a panel discussion entitled "The State of State Media" on the second day of the International Press Institute's (IPI) 60th annual World Congress.

The panel's chairman, Enrico Woolford of Guyana, would only say that Ali "unavoidably could not be here."

Local media were anxious to hear Ali's contribution to the panel, not only because he would have been the only Trinidadian panellist scheduled to speak in Sunday's proceedings, but because in April 2011, CNMG journalists had publicly raised concerns of political interference in the nightly newscast. 

Julio Munoz, executive director or the Inter-American Press Association, openly criticised any attempt by state media around the world to influence journalists. He noted that governments controlled the press content through the revocation of licences as is the case in Venezuela or by advertising only in media houses deemed to be pro-government.  

"State-owned media means misinformation to the public," he stated in his closing comments. "The real information is what belongs to the public. When people go to buy a newspaper they always have a choice. But they will pick up the one with the highest credibility."

He said that journalists working in state-owned media must be "loyal to government" and therefore the full picture is never given

Hungarian journalist Attila Mong noted that, in his country, the newly elected centre-right government was elected on the platform that the media were too free. The government put in place a media authority in place which created a document of content regulation. He said the government merged state television, print and radio, effectively eliminating any kind of pluralism.

"Public media is being occupied and turned into a propaganda machine," he said.

The lone advocate for state media was the principal correspondent the Doodarshan News in India, Poonam Dabas, who said that she had never been pressured by any government official to censure her broadcast.

She said that many times the calls for censorship come not from the ministers, but from "over enthusiastic"  public servants seeking to please their ministers. She argued that state media is necessary to distribute the messages of social importance that private media may be reluctant to broadcast or publish. She also said that private media focused mainly on broadcasting in cities and only the state owned media invested the resources to broadcast throughout the country in the mountainous and the rural areas.