John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at Coventry University. Writing from Georgetown, Guyana for Journalism.co.uk, he takes a look at the South American country’s media landscape.
In London it is all too easy to get swept along by the tide of digital mania. Too easy to think the future of our craft is all tweeting, Facebook, citizen journalism and all the buzz words of the recent news:rewired sessions.
But what is the digital reality here in the Third World? It is limited, to say the least. Communication is still mostly about chopping down trees and spreading ink on them. The four nationals here don’t really ‘get the net’. They put their editions up on the web after publication and leave them there for a day. No updating and very little interactivity. Where news is concerned, the web is a static platform here.
One man is making some headway though. Former employee of state radio station GBC Denis Chabrol has created a multi-platform site, Demerarawaves.com, with a radio programme and some text, plus Facebook and Twitter sharing tools. Chabrol still has a long way to go however, his efforts are still based on a weekly radio programme and daily text alerts. He can scoop with the best though – this week he revealed that the president had sold his recently built house to the man who does his election advertising for a substantial profit. But a story like that that needed the full internet works and it didn’t quite get it.
It is on the blogs that Guyana comes closest to facing the future. The country’s blogs are satirical and they are political – so much so that at least one Guyana media critic has been driven out of business by the government. Today, at least three survive: propagandapress.wordpress.com; ohguyana.blogspot.com; liveinguyana.blogspot.com. With varying degrees of success they dig and they lampoon the Jagdeo/PPP government and various public officials. They are, though, too often a melange of half-truths, viciousness and malice. I suspect many are edited outside Guyana.
The bloggers here are also very coy about breaking cover. Under strict conditions of anonymity, I managed to obtain an interview with ‘Nelly’, one of the founders of propagandapress.wordpress.com. She and her colleagues see their purpose as “propaganda for the masses”:
“Fodder for intelligent asses as our slogan says. Guyana is a fucked up country and we want to see changes. We want an end to state sponsored murder. We want an end to privatisation of the country by PPP Crime Family & Friends Inc and soon.”
These bloggers do not necessarily follow strict checking of story sources and facts, it all seems a bit laissez faire in fact.
“Some things don’t need to be checked. Once our agents operating behind enemy lines send in certain things, we don’t need to check it because they’re putting their lives on the line to get some of that info.”
And what about their effect on the country’s polity?
“That’s hard to say as we do not know at this time. We know people like James Singh, CEO of Canu (the custom’s anti-narcotics unit), and others wake up daily panicking at what we’re going to say next about them as we have moles in Canu. As far as our impact on political/cultural life of Guyana that’s still to be seen. Until our flagship was hacked, we were getting six to eight million hits a year. That’s since dropped tremendously but we are building bigger, better and stronger. We’re here to stay!”
It is difficult to predict how long some of these bloggers will last. They will persevere at least until the national and presidential elections in 2011, when they hope their work will culminate in the ousting of the Jagdeo/PPP party.
Image courtesy of Douglas F. on Flickr