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Friday 13 December 2019
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Analyst: Media reports shape views on MPs

Dr Bishnu Ragoonath
Dr Bishnu Ragoonath

A political commentator has said the media's choice of exactly what they report plays a huge role in shaping the public’s perception of what happens in Parliament.

University lecturer Dr Bishnu Ragoonath was commenting to Newsday on President Paula Mae Weekes’ recent call for more co-operation rather than conflict between MPs.

Newsday asked if bacchanal outweighed bipartisanship, or if it was all part of democracy.

Ragoonath said, “It’s all part of the democracy. Parliamentarians have the right and the privilege to speak.”

However, he saw a challenge arising from the extent to which some MPs have taken their comments.

“But I don’t think it’s a matter of 'kicksing in Parliament,' as the Parliament still gets on with its business.

“I think probably part of the challenge we have is simply what is the focus of the media, which reflects certain types of action, and not necessarily everything else that goes on in Parliament. People are entitled to that in the democratic process, but I think people are entitled to get coverage that is fair and balanced and focused on the critical issues.”

Over the years, have parliamentarians become more partisan and/or has the media become more sensationalist?

“I would not say it (Parliament) has changed significantly. Part of the concern has always been with regard to the Speaker maintaining control over the Parliament, and that is what we have to deal with.”

Newsday asked about the President’s specific criticisms of walkouts, put-outs, non-consensus and privileges matters.

“There are concerns on both sides," said Ragoonath. "The emphasis has always been: can we get the correct balance in terms of how the Speaker (rules) and how it is reported?”

He said if parties disrespect the presiding officer, that becomes a challenge.

“I think it’s necessary for there to be decorum on both sides, but unfortunately I think both have been guilty of breaching the standing orders and protocols in Parliament.

“While I’d agree with the President that there could be deemed to be some level of friction in Parliament, we also have to look at reporting from Parliament, including what is reported and what is not reported. The serious issues don’t always get that coverage.”

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