Airing of tape should be judged carefully
Stabroek News
May 28, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Will the real government concerned with media affairs in Guyana please stand up! Will those who are indeed vested with the Authority to "monitor" the media and in particular that newest aspect of this " fourth estate" termed 'broadcasting', "please come to front" (as my little brother used to say), and take a bow so that we can see who you really are and what you have so far done on the stage of this important play on our current lives; rather than those self-styled czars of media comment who have been masquerading of late, without let, or a modicum of earned authority so to do.

One notes that Dr Prem Misir (who has descended on this society from afar off U S of A claiming accreditations in everything but the media, but who has regaled us with ultra-copious missives in the government-run-but-nation- owned paper that breaches all the rules of good journalism and the management of same) had teamed up last week with the new PR person for the police, Royston King and presumptuously, taken the nation's broadcast media to task.

I repeat, presumptuously, since neither gentleman can claim an intimate knowledge of any aspect of the media as a known practitioner, in the workings or the management of broadcasting over time.

Dr Misir has been foisted, by the current government, as an information functionary, since the leaving of Mr Moses Nagamootoo for other pastures and waters. His tenure at the Government Information Service and now at the institution that he was allowed to create, the Government Information Agency (GINA) has been less than spectacular, except one credits him for hoeing the ruling party's partisan fields of closed-circuit public relations and hence toeing religiously, the party line of "constant jammin" on behalf of his bosses, the opposition, and hence at a large cross-section of the nation.

Why would my good friend, Royston King, whose tenure at City Hall has also not been as stellar as was needed, allow himself to be teamed with Misir in pontificating on what they know not and proceeded to convince us that what little they know is not in line with "fair comment."

I, who have been steeped in all aspects of the media a youth at the feet of my publishing father, and since at the watering holes of the various arms of the media in Jamaica and, through contributions in other areas abroad and here in my native land, find it most offensive to be (now that I appear as a talk-show host) lectured to and on, by those who don't understand that a little learning is a dangerous thing.

Nowadays every Tom, Dick, Jane and Janet is a journalist and presuming to be so, with a vengeance; not appreciating that title or professional status comes not lightly or as soon as one dips one's big toe in the water of the "Pyrenean springs."

The once-noble and soul- demanding, honest-to-god difficult if-done-right profession is now, it seems, the province of whoever would wish to pose as being of its bosom.

A press or media association or body used to be peopled by those who had "won their spurs" and paid their dues.

Now what is Alexander "on" about? What is his current "beef"? That a hue and a cry (that will be a nine-day wonder anyhow) has been raised, voluminously, because a few television stations got, surreptitiously, a tape of a man, wanted by the police for escaping from prison (though his crime for incarceration has not been proven) and he is surmised to be implicated in shooting and stabbing his way out of there; and those media houses opted to air the man's protestations about how he was unfairly treated and that he has been declaring this for years.

Two tenets of journalism are at issue here. One, having viewed the tape, is the medium, the station, entitled to make a management "judgement call" like any other press medium: and to determine whether what they have in hand is "fair comment" by the subject speaker and whether they are entitled to give the nation the opportunity to view the contents of said tape, judge for itself (like the responsible individuals they are expected to be) and determine whether what is being said is to be countenanced or not.

Two, the hue and cry that is loudly raised by the government, mainly, and its coterie of letter writing hacks is a vain attempt to try to stifle "breaking news". That, to my mind (steeped, unfortunately or not, for countless years in the media-business) is the long and short of it.

The content of the tape, again, to my mind, is so much the improperly-contructed fulmination of persons who were obviously influenced by the presence of an attack rifle in the man's hand, while he was suing for peace and presenting himself as a beacon of wronged light; and by the fact that the words belied the prior action that he had been a part of or privy to. And most importantly, there was no hint of apology or remorse for the slain and maimed parties, consequent on his escape. He was a party to a killing and that will always be a stigma that he cannot escape, no matter what he says, until proven otherwise.

My view is that any broadcast authority worth its salt and wishing to be considered the fount of wisdom, would do well to study all the nuances of this "storm in a teacup" and not be part and parcel of any move at muzzling a media that is of utmost service to the society, is not being honestly served by the state media. I say let the "free" media strive.

Yours faithfully,

Lorri Alexander