Remington Eastman of the Guyana Elections Commission describes his role in heading a group that monitors the media prior to, during, and after elections to ensure that coverage is fair and does not favor one party or engage in inflammatory rhetoric. His operation, which is funded by international donors through the commission, had no legal powers to enforce its actions and relied upon persuasion, or “name and shame,” to influence media behavior. He says that these efforts generally were effective during election time, but that the media often return to their partisan or inflammatory behavior after the election period. He states that the Media Monitoring Unit was especially effective during the Lusignan and Bartica massacres, in which Guyana citizens of African descent attacked communities of East Indian descent. The unit worked to calm inflammatory media behavior by showing them the consequences that flowed from similar media behavior in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Another media monitoring unit in Guyana, the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting, created by the Parliament, has the power, unlike the MMU, to enforce its actions through legal action by the president, who is also Minister of Communications. Two television channels were closed down for a period of time because of violations. However, ACB has power only over television, not print media. A 2006 Media Code of Conduct was adopted to guide media behavior during elections that year. It drew upon the Media Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as codes of ethics at the British Broadcasting Corp., the Associated Press and other groups. Eastman also discusses the steps and costs involved to upgrade his agency from analog to digital technology.
At the time of this interview, Remington Eastman was serving as project manager of the Media Monitoring Unit of the Guyana Elections Commission. He started working at the unit in 2006 as a supervisor, and then served briefly in community mobilization and public relations with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He returned to the unit in 2007, when he was appointed manager. He holds a diploma in public communication and a degree in mass communications from the University of Guyana.