By some stretch of the imagination, one would have certainly thought that the majority of the media operatives in Guyana would have been afforded access to basic insurance coverage through their respective organizations, but we were appalled to learn the opposite.
It was only a few weeks prior to this latest bout of tragedy that we were in discussion with a very well-known and respected regional reporter, who had suggested that at some stage, the Guyana scenario could return to bite. We will hesitate to wave the white flag as we expect this tragedy to force some positive changes, especially if the press association possesses the fortitude to make the case for its members.
He explained that media owners are now resorting to high school graduates as seasoned reporters begin rebelling against the poor conditions and move to accept more lucrative offers in the Caribbean and in North America, even if in some cases, it means crossing professional lanes.
With younger and lesser experience media workers, quality has receded and so too has the basic access to certain accompanying rights and privileges that are expected to be entrenched in the profession. According to this regional journalist, this is no reason to be alarmed.
What this respected gentleman argued was some sort of caste system which mirrors the general social consensus of Guyana where workers’ rights have been eroding gradually and union representation tossed out the window and swept up like a flower seed in a swirling wave of wind.
He had argued that the profession is near toxic, favouring the courageous while the weak hearted are downtrodden under the feet of hatred fueled by lies and scandal.
Hence, from the very night we learnt of this tragic accident involving media operatives, we begun to reflect how dirty a profession the media has become and how much slippery the owners are.
Exploitation is rampant. Long hours, no overtime and in some ridiculous circumstances, there are no contracts for those in the shadows – the layout artists, camerapersons, and video and audio editors. All of this in the face of no pension plans and other retirement benefits.
There is absolutely nothing for a noble journalist to retire to. This constitutes economic rape by media owners, who would make the case that without legislative support such as a relevant copyright law and a broadcast bill, money was being chiseled out the coffers. This is absolutely no excuse as media owners continue to live lavish lifestyles.
Such a situation is a recipe for disaster and begs the pertinent question as to why cub reporters should continue to operate under such circumstances. We put forward the question to our bold regional professional and he quickly responded that Guyana is a Third World nation and sometimes, that thought gets lost in emotional anger when incidents occur.
Desperate economic situations in the country appeared to be dictating the steady flow of young persons to the profession, noting that the media was still viewed as a noble and trusted profession. In essence, this guy was actually saying that despite where on the economic bracket you emerged to join the media, you instantly gained publicity and respect. So too it must have be with one’s educational status.
It really didn’t matter if you finished your secondary education at Charlestown Secondary or Queen’s College, everyone in the media stand a chance of being invited to the Office of the President to be in the presence of Bharrat Jagdeo or some Government Minister.
It also meant that they rubbed shoulders with some of the most influential in society and most prolific modern day entertainers in the music industry.
For so many other young media practitioners’, journalism represent a way to get paid. Do or die in an economically crumbling nation. But the cost is enormous as so many are being vividly shown with the tragic passing of Akila Jacobs.
The media has already shown weakness in the face of threats when they meekly gave up on a protest for a colleague that was banned from covering assignments at the Office of the President.
We are still not prepared to subdue to our regional friend because we know that at this moment some soul searching is taking place. Who will be next, who will suffer because of failure to ensure that the right cushions exist.
He warned however, that this was no reason to sit idly and decide to accept such conditions.