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Governance and journalism

Published: 
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In a recent letter circulated to local newsrooms, Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, who currently holds the portfolios of Minister of Works and Infrastructure and Minister of Local Government, made broad and sweeping claims regarding the professionalism and intent of working journalists. The Local Government Minister allocated a significant amount of his letter to defending this newspaper against commentary that he characterised as “attacks” that were “unfortunate.”

 

Dr Rambachan went to some pains to make clear that the current issues being resolved at the Guardian are an internal matter, but he acted with unseemly enthusiasm in seeking to cast aspersions on the reputations of journalists who move on from the trade to work in communications roles with the State.

 

It seems quite strange that the good doctor would go to such pains to list the journalists who were hired under the PNM administration that preceded the current government, while making no mention of the significant harvest of journalists that the People’s Partnership gathered on taking office.

 

In the same way that Dr Rambachan championed fairness and integrity in journalism practice, he should be encouraged to consider that professionals engaged in the business of writing and reporting should be able to move freely between employment sectors for which they are eminently qualified. Journalism is the execution of a craft with appropriate skills, not one governed by passion or party allegiance. 

 

While there have been some useful deliberations on issues of press freedom in the last week, Dr Rambachan’s letter is representative of those commentators who would use the situation over the last few days as an avenue to air their personal agendas. To paint with so broad a brush in this current scenario was unfortunate. For journalists to move to and fro between the media and other entities is not new and neither is it something to be frowned on. 

 

Like anyone else, journalists are entitled to apply for and take up jobs in any sector of society should they seek to move on from the media, and this should in no way be used against them in the current scenario. The majority of journalists who have made such a move over the years have chosen positions within the communications departments of state entities as opposed to becoming direct representatives of political parties or politicians themselves. 

 

This may signal an intention to maintain their journalistic and professional integrity; it may be a sign that their profession has in fact left them somewhat suspicious of all political parties. It would be naive to assume that all journalists working in state corporate communications are able to function at such the level of complete professional disconnect, but it is eminently unfair to imply that any personal allegiances are relevant to performance in such roles, or to assume that such employment is a taint on a journalist’s character.