Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Are you in the pantomime, Stella? - Freddie Kissoon

Freddie Kissoon's Column in Kaieteur News on September 6, 2005:

Guyana can sometimes be described as a comedy performed by circus clowns who keep falling over each other, and the audience laughs and calls for more, completely unaware that the jokers are not going through their regular paces but are bungling things up.

Guyana can sometimes be described as a Greek tragedy where the hero is crowned by the gods but ends up as the villain of the peace.

Guyana can sometimes be described as a game of cricket where the umpires go through the motions of allowing appeals for Leg Before Wicket, but in fact the sides consist of a team of eleven and a team of thirteen, the two umpires being part of the charade. Guyana is such a flawed society it can be described as anything you choose to describe it as.

Enter Stella Ramsaroop. Stella wrote an acerbic letter in defence of the Stabroek News when the President of Guyana sued the paper for publishing a certain viewpoint of Mr. Christopher Ram. Stella's argument was wide ranging.

She believed that public figures like the President should be broadminded enough to take criticism. She felt that when public figures resort to the courts, press freedom is in danger. What was missing in Stella's judgement was her delineation of press freedom.

I replied to Stella implying that she had lost her groove. My point was that if Stella had her groove intact she would have known that other people who want press freedom only want it to operate in their favour, and they seek to deny it to others when it suits their purpose.

Now that can hardly be an enlightened approach to freedom of the media. Stella of course did not know that Mr. Ram had sued me and the Kaieteur News for libel, and that therefore the paper and I could have interpreted that as an infringement of press freedom.

Stella lost no time in replying to me. She was assertive and apologetic.

She reaffirmed her opinion that the President was wrong to sue the Stabroek News, but said she didn't know what Ram had done to me and the Kaieteur News. But the part of her correspondence I like is when, in bold terms, she told me that she had never lost her groove; it is alive and kicking, and she has no intention of losing her groove and her marbles.

Well, Stella is in trouble if we don't hear from her after this column hits the newsstands. The Stabroek News, that Stella was so adamant in defending, is entangled in a web of double standards at the moment.

Is Stella going to extricate the paper she loves, or is she going to assert her groove and sock it to them? Let's tell Stella the story.

In the Stabroek News of August 31, 2005, the paper carried a letter entitled “I am not the only victim of Kissoon's sick mind” by Kit Nascimento.

Now I am a university lecturer and a public figure. Both Nascimento and the Stabroek News have ridiculed me in the eyes of the public by concluding that my mind is sick.

That is big, big libel. How are they going to prove that I have a sick mind? That is such a huge act of libel that even the most brilliant civil lawyer will find it impossible to defend.

Of course it was nothing strange that Mr. Nascimento did not send his missive to Kaieteur News even though he was replying in the Stabroek News to one of my Kaieteur News articles. The Kaieteur News will never print an opinion that says a public figure has a sick mind.

I replied to Mr. Nascimento in both the Kaieteur News and the Stabroek News; the latter printed my letter in its edition yesterday. But then something unthinkable in the media occurred at the bottom of my letter.

The Stabroek News asked Nascimento for an opinion on my response to him and published it at the bottom of my letter. Mr. Nascimento's comment was anything but complimentary.

This is unprofessional journalism at its worst. I have been associated with the Kaieteur News from the beginning and I can state without any fear of contradiction that neither the publisher nor any of the senior editors would allow me to make a comment at the end of a letter written about me.

The Kaieteur News had an incident whereby Adam Harris, then editor, placed an editorial comment which was in the form of an opinion at the end of one of my columns.

The essay was on the inconsistent bail structure of former Chief Magistrate, Juliet Holder-Allen. Mr. Harris defended Ms. Holder-Allen. I was livid when I saw that and lodged an official protest with the publisher, Mr. Glen Lall.

Mr. Lall summoned a meeting of all the senior editorial employees and he made several calls to media experts in and out of Guyana in our presence.
The consensus was that the editor can only intrude in an opinion piece to correct dates or established facts, such as if the columnist located a building in the wrong street.

The point was that the editor cannot interfere with the opinions of a columnist. One editor in Barbados told Mr. Lall it was unheard of. Mr. Harris did the decent thing and apologised the next day to me.

What the Stabroek News did yesterday was to severely lower the standards of its media behaviour in the eyes of the entire nation. I can say without fear of contradiction that the Kaieteur News would never do such a thing.

I go in and out of the Kaieteur News daily, and I am never told that there is a letter coming out on me. And it is unthinkable for any senior editor to insert a comment from me at the end of the letter. Newspapers cannot be so openly biased.
Mr. Nascimento had his say; I replied. Mr. Nascimento should have been given the privilege of responding if he didn't like my rebuttal. This is the problem with this society – double standards in every sphere, in every dimension of life in Guyana .
I once wrote that, if our political problems were to be solved in the immediate future, then Guyana 's social problems would not come to an end. We are a hypocritical society that love to criticise others, but we practise not one ounce of the virtue that we expect the government of the day to embody.

So where does this leave Stella Ramsaroop? I would like to hear Stella's analysis of what the Stabroek News did yesterday. I would like to hear how she feels about this aspect of press responsibility.

In closing, let me say that since I have done critical commentary on the role of the Stabroek News I am fully aware that I am not in that paper's good books. But professional ethics demand that institutions curb their personal vendettas in the interest of press responsibility.

Think of how the government would feel about what Stabroek News has done. Would the Government find the Stabroek News a source of objective commentary?

Read My Response

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. It is in the moderation process now and will be posted once it is approved.