Stabroek News could have spoken to me
Stabroek News
October 29, 2001

Dear Editor,

I am amused by the lengthy explanation given by the editor of this occasionally 'balanced' newspaper, on the issue "Police should not harass Mr Benschop" (a letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] written by a Mr. Eion Williams 10/26/2001).

I thank the writer, he seems to understand the right of an individual to exercise his/her democratic rights. However, I get the distinct impression that democracy can only be enjoyed by the rich and powerful. In this and other societies, it is evident.

The editor in his/her note stated that "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 give us a statement we shall be happy to investigate the matter further and publish a report on what took place".

Surprisingly, on the same day that letter was published, Stabroek News carried a one-sided report on the squatters issue (headline - Squatters at Better Hope attack sugar estate workers). In the final paragraph of this pro Guysuco report, it states "police sources told Stabroek News yesterday that a former TV talk show host is expected to appear in court today (true) in connection with fomenting the confrontation between the squatters and the sugar estate personnel (that's a lie).

If Stabroek News was not aware of the 'detailed circumstances' as they claimed, why didn't the editor ask one of his reporters to contact me (they know my number and e-mail address) or even visit the area and talk to the squatters themselves?. Any professional newspaper editor would have done that, showing a balance in his/her reports. This is something your newspaper has accused me of doing in the past, are you now guilty of the same?

It appears as though you have already passed a judgment on the squatters, without giving them a fair hearing. In paragraph (3) of your note it states "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..." what's your point? In fact, in paragraph (4) you further stated "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".

Had you done a fair reporting on the issue, you would have found out that many of the squatters have applied for house lots, but like everything in this country, it's a long battle. Please, be fair with your reporting and do visit the squatters to hear their side. Then after doing so, you can pronounce on the issue with some authority.

Yours faithfully,

Mark A. Benschop

Editor's note:

As regards the reference in our report to likely police action against a former talk show host, no name was mentioned. It was included to alert the public to the latest developments in the story. It is the practice of this newspaper not to use names unless charges are formally brought by the police. Under those circumstances, there was no need to speak to Mr Benschop.

Over the years Guysuco has had several confrontations with squatters and we have always done our best to report both sides. On this occasion, the news item was being prepared on a Wednesday evening based on a Guysuco press release which referred to incidents of violence. The squatters had dispersed and were not then available. We intend to speak to them.