The Guyana Press Association (GPA) on Thursday issued a scathing press statement on the recent deliberations at the World Press Freedom Day conference hosted by the Office of the Prime Minister- Department of Public Affairs.
Following public comments panel discussions which formed part of the event, the GPA noted that much of the debates and disagreements at the conference appeared to stem from the decision by the organisers to conflate journalism, public relations practice and social media influence. “Whether or not this was the intent, it was a grave error as each category of communication has its own role,” it stated.
The body which represents journalists in Guyana pointed out that “Social Media influencers, though they command some following, cannot and will not be regarded as journalists and they should never contemplate seeing themselves as such.”
The statement came after the circulation of photos in which owners of prominent Facebook pages formed part of a panel discussion on ‘the rise of citizen reporters and social media influencers: Trends for 2022 and beyond.’ Represented on the panel are persons whom the media have expressed concerns about since they are often given prominence over Journalists to access public officials.
The GPA said “If politicians across the divide claim to have any modicum of interest in improving the standard of journalism, then they ought to immediately cease utilising social media influencers in the place of journalists. To continue doing so is to contribute to the degradation of journalism at the altar of expediency of reach, likes and shares. In this way, sections of the public are led to believe that such social media content is in keeping with globally accepted standards of journalism.”
The association further questioned whether “anyone with a few followers, limited language competence, no regard for fact-checking etc. can be regarded by himself or herself and the public as a journalist because a politician uses him or her as an information conduit?”
Based on the comments about the conference, the GPA said the next national World Press Freedom Conference should be jointly organised with the Press Association and focus on journalism.
The Government also launched its Guyana Media and Communication Academy.
The GPA noted that while it supports media and communication training, this should be provided through the University of Guyana which is an accredited tertiary institution.
“Journalism cannot be confused or mixed up with specialised content on specific topics or projects. Media houses and Government may wish to consider discussing how information products on specific projects and issues can be broadcast or published with the appropriate disclaimer so there is no confusion between paid content and journalism,” the statement concluded.