Amnesty needs to get first hand experience
Guyana Chronicle
April 27, 2002

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AFTER reading the Stabroek News article, “Amnesty cautions government against inflammatory language,” of April 23 which stated that Amnesty International has cautioned the Guyana Government to refrain from “inflammatory language that may undermine the right of freedom of expression and lead to further Human Rights violation,” I have cause to implore this international body to get the facts right when they make such claims.

It is clearly evident that this was after allegations that the Government had verbally labelled talk show hosts as ‘terrorists,’ as well as sections of the opposition party. This word was only quoted, after initial use by opposers of this Government.

The fact of the matter, however, is that there are quite a number of persons who stand guilty of such behaviour. Those guilty of the use, as well as encouraging the use of inflammatory language are the talk show hosts. For the past couple of months since the death of Brian King, talk show hosts have time and again been breaching every rule of law all in the name of freedom of expression.

They are guilty of defamation of character, a common practice of the “Sunrise Show” with Clem David, “Wake up Guyana Show” with Basil Bradshaw and “Voice of the People” with C.N. Sharma. Ministers Ronald Gajraj, Leslie Ramsammy, GECOM Chairman Steve Surujballi, and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Roger Luncheon are just some of the persons these talk shows demonise all in the name of freedom of expression.

Amnesty International after being misinformed, thinks it is now an opportune time to make a contribution to the local situation. But if they want to talk about inflammatory remarks, they should have been paying attention to “Straight Up” with Mark Benschop last year, a programme that was riddled daily with gross, vile and explosive remarks, strong enough to tear this country apart.

Where was Amnesty International then? Where were they when the “Straight Up” programme on March 19, 2001 broke every set rule to build this nation, when it encouraged persons to defy this Government, as well as to spew race hate, and felt good about such action?

All this was after calls were made for media houses, including talk show hosts, to sign a pact regarding media behaviour for the 2001 elections. In my opinion, this was a very good and timely initiative, although some more structure was needed to make the process more comprehensive. A couple of experienced media functionaries and organisations were invited to monitor the election process, after which reports were presented. Where was Amnesty International then?

If this body needs to make a contribution, let them make a positive contribution, from first hand experience, not word of mouth. For them to attack the Government just off the bat like that is unfair.

To have a true representation of what goes on in this country that could possibly lead to incitement of any nature, the culture of local talk shows should be the first up for examination.
Harry Balram