By Vahnu ManickchandApproximately 20 media operatives from both private and State entities on Thursday morning stormed out of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Headquarters after “gross disrespect” and poor treatment were meted out to them when they turned up to provide coverage of the army’s Annual Officers’ Conference.This is the second year that the media had experienced difficulties in covering theMedia operatives heading out of the GDF compound on Thursday morning after storming out of the Annual Officers’ Conference over disrespectful treatment by the armyGDF Officers’ Conference.The GDF had invited the press to cover the opening ceremony of the Conference, asking that the media representatives be at Base Camp Ayanganna for 09:30h. Being cognisant of the army protocols, the majority of the media operatives arrived way ahead of that time and were made to wait in the benab outside the compound on Thomas Land.After some time, the group of reporters, cameramen and photographers was made to walk all the way to the other end of the compound (closer to Carifesta Avenue) and instead of being taken straight to the Officers’ Mess Hall where the event was being held, they were diverted to another building where about 20 of them were cooped up in a small room.This caused the media operatives to voice their concern and discomfort to GDFGDF Press Officer, Colonel Michael Shahoud talking to members of the press as they head out the compoundCommunication Officer Major Earl Edghill, who indicated to them that they would be escorted to the conference room shortly.In protest of the treatment meted out to them, media operatives informed the armypersonnel that better arrangements needed to be made to accommodate the press at GDF events. In fact, they decried the fact that they were made to walk several yards in the scorching sun when most of them, particularly the cameramen and photographers, were carrying heavy equipment.They also reminded the officer that they needed to arrive at the conference area ahead of time in order to set up their cameras and run their microphone cables. In furtherance of their protest against the treatment they received, the press questioned why they could not have used the entrance on Vlissengen Road that leads to the sports ground since it was closer to the building where the conference was being held.However, Major Edghill explained that civilians entering the GDF compound were required to pass through the main entrance at Thomas Lands. They then requested, in this case, for transportation to be made available next time.About 15 minutes later, media operatives were removed from the cramped room and escorted to the Mess Hall where, upon arrival, they realised the event was already underway as Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Patrick West, could be heard speaking.The members of the press were then led into the lounge area on the bottom floor, where they were offered beverages “as a consolation” but refused the refreshment. Major Edghill subsequently resurfaced and led the press members to the upper flat where the event was ongoing with Brigadier West delivering a presentation.Already frustrated and angered by what was transpiring, media operatives felt further disrespected when they entered the conference room to find that no proper arrangements were made to accommodate them. They were told to set up their cameras at an angle whereby speakers at the podium would have been caught on the side.Additionally, there was no seating arrangement for reporters, who were expected to remain standing beside the seated gathering, which comprised Commander-in-Chief President David Granger and Government Ministers as well as top-ranking military officers.This situation caused the operatives, led by Vice President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA) Zoisa Fraser and Executive Member Denis Chabrol, to boycott the event.As the 20-odd media representatives were making their way out of the compound, they were approached by GDF Press Officer, Colonel Michael Shahoud, who attempted to salvage the situation. He pulled aside the GPA Vice President, explaining why the media was prevented from covering the conference from the beginning.“The conference has taken a new dimension … There are some things of national security (being said at the Annual Officers’ Conference) that the Chief-of-Staff would not want in the public’s domain, and for obvious reasons,” he posited.Colonel Shahoud added that for the past two years, under the leadership of Brigadier West, sensitive information has been included in the Chief-of-Staff’s presentation. However, he was informed of previous occasions when the media would comply with instructions not to record or publish sensitive information disclosed during such events.The Colonel went on to say the media would have been allowed in the conference room to set up their equipment in time for the President’s address. “That is what we invited you for,” he stated, but he was reminded that it would have been improper to be setting up while a speaker was at the podium, or worst if the Commander-in-Chief had already started his speech.Last year, media operatives who arrived at the GDF Headquarters for the event were placed in a briefing room for over an hour before they were finally escorted, via a bus, to the Mess Hall for the conference. However, upon their arrival, President Granger had already started his feature address, which upset the members of the press.Meanwhile, the GPA in a subsequent statement on Thursday condemned the treatment of the media operatives, calling it “gross disrespect”.“The Guyana Press Association would like to use this opportunity to remind the Guyana Defence Force of the importance of the media, not only as a group but as a major partner that also works to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of this country. The media does not work in a vacuum and its members should be treated with the respect it deserves,” the Association noted.The GPA further added it was unfortunate that the GDF continued to engage the media in this manner, when it has not acknowledged repeated attempts by the media representative body to engage and work towards a better relationship.The new GPA executive body, which is now being headed by veteran broadcast journalist Nazima Raghubir, said it wrote the GDF since January 15, 2018 for a familiarisation meeting but has gotten no response to date.