Deplorable attack Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 23, 2002

THE reported attack on Sunday by a gang on TV station owner and political party leader, Mr. C.N. Sharma cannot be condoned and must be condemned by those who respect the right of people in this country to freedom of expression and allied freedoms.

However much some people may disagree with what others say in the media, assaulting them physically is not the answer.

This is not what those who fought for the restoration of democracy in this country, and all that that entails, envisaged.

Those who feel grievously wronged by what TV `talk show hosts' and `anchors' regularly say about them on their `shows', have the courts and other avenues through which to pursue justice. In other words, they have to operate within the limits of the law - even if those who verbally attack them often do not play by any rules.

Reporters and media professionals going about their lawful business have a right to be protected and cannot be the targets of beatings by persons who are not comfortable with what they or their media report.

Reporters and photographers, including those employed by the Chronicle, have been beaten and robbed by mobs in recent years with the attackers always somehow managing to escape from Police on the scene and not being punished for their vicious assaults.

One gang of attackers openly ran for cover into the headquarters of a main political party and was not detained and camera and TV equipment they stole have not been recovered.

These incidents have been deplored and commented on in the region and beyond while some of those now vigorously rallying around the cause of Mr. Sharma had been deafeningly silent.

But all those operating as media personnel deserve to be free from attacks by mobs and gangs and all those who value and cherish the rights regarded as standard in a democracy, must come out against those who would want to beat up on media operatives.

In his own style, Mr. Sharma has been going about his TV operations and was recently praised by Prime Minister Sam Hinds for being a pioneer in broadcasting `Death Announcements and messages', birthday greetings and other `innovations' on TV.

He is an acknowledged TV and media personality in his own right and should be free to pursue his calling as long as he stays within the limits of the law.

The physical assault on Mr. Sharma must therefore be as reprehensible as the attacks and threats on others in the media.

Those who do not like what Mr. Sharma says and shows on his TV station have the most powerful weapon they can use - they can simply switch channels and not watch his programmes.

Some who believe they have been libelled by his broadcasts have taken him to court and others can follow suit if they feel offended by programmes on the station.

But beating up on a TV station owner and `show host' cannot be tolerated in a decent society.

A democracy thrives on a free flow of ideas and as long as that is seen to be threatened, democracy itself would be under threat.

The assault on Mr. Sharma therefore has to be roundly condemned and the authorities should send a clear signal that such attacks would not be tolerated in this country.