Police should not harass Mr Benschop
Stabroek News
October 26, 2001

Dear Editor,

I am asking the administration to lay off Mr Mark Benschop. Yes he is a trouble maker, yes anyone in power would hate his guts, yes he may be all things wrong to the administration, but that's the beauty of a democracy. Don't take us back to the Burnhamite days. Remember Father Darke, the priest with the paper.

To send the feared Black Clothes police to arrest Benschop as happened recently is shameful. Benschop may be a political agitator but he is no 'Blackie'. He is not a criminal, he has never been accused of being armed and dangerous and yes, he should not be on a million dollars bail, he is no flight risk.

Benschop is nothing more than a young man trying to correct what he believes are the wrongs committed by those in power.He thinks, and maybe he is, the Al Sharpton of Guyana. Misguided he might be, but give him his day. Let him film the squatters, talk to the disadvantaged, hold court with the persecuted, but don't stop him. Counter his alleged lies with truth. Let the facts prevail, but don't try to silence him by using force and intimidation.

Guyana needs more Mark Benschops, Mr President. They are the eyes and ears of a democracy. Your intentions might be good but the same cannot be said for all your lieutenants and foot soldiers. You need the Benschops to help weed out the thorns in your administration, to help expose the lazy, the sluggards and the inefficient.

Finally, Mr President, don't underestimate the intelligence of the Guyanese masses. They know when Mr Benschop is tainting the truth, when he is misrepresenting the facts, or when he is colouring the issues to serve his own narrow interest. They don't need the long arm of the government to shut down Mr Benschop. The more you try to silence him the louder his voice becomes. Already he has gained the attention of such world bodies as Amnesty International. When Mr Benschop ceases to be of interest to the people they will tune him out and he will become irrelevant. In the meantime let's sit back and enjoy the show.

Yours faithfully,

Eion Williams

Editor's note

We believe in free speech. But we also believe journalists have a duty to check their facts. When he was a talk show host Mr Benschop's critics argued that he made no effort to do so and his broadcasts were frequently defamatory and inflammatory.

Take the issue of squatters which the writer also refers to in a separate note. This is a legitimate news issue but surely in any responsible coverage of any protest by squatters one should make reference to the government's efforts to issue house lots and to create housing schemes for the poor. A large number of house lots have in fact been issued in many parts of the country, though the infrastructure has not been installed. Otherwise, the coverage becomes one-sided and biased. Squatters are, in that context, effectively trying to jump the queue at the expense of other poor people who have applied for lots.

We agree that Mr Benschop should not be charged by the police unless he has broken a specific law. We are not aware of the detailed circumstances of the recent attempt to arrest him but if Mr Benschop wishes to come in and give us a statement we shall be happy to investigate the matter further and publish a report on what took place.