Worrying trends Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
April 12, 2002

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GUYANESE here and abroad are understandably deeply concerned about the spate of violent crimes that has escalated with the dramatic escape from prison on February 23 last of five men Police have warned are armed and very dangerous.

The gang, which killed a Prison Officer and seriously wounded another as it fled the prison, has since been linked to a series of car hijackings and armed robberies and citizens are clearly worried.

In a situation like this, with innocent citizens open to danger, it is to be expected that the law-abiding section of society would be rallying fully around the law enforcement forces as they pull out the stops in the manhunt for the escapees. The Police Force and the other agencies of the Joint Services involved in the manhunt and in trying to put a cap on the violent crimes need all the public support they can get.

The Police Force has been at pains to point out that public support is essential to its job and has consistently appealed for understanding of the difficult task it faces against criminals who sometimes pack more firepower than the cops going after them.

In spite of these appeals and the obvious need for cooperation, especially at times like these, there have been some worrying trends from some quarters.

One area is the reporting and discussions of the recent spate of criminal acts by certain sections of the media.

We all at times fall short of the high standards demanded but the professionalism and ethics of journalism require that professional media houses be objective, truthful, accurate and, very importantly, have a sense of responsibility and national commitment.

Unfortunately, some media houses, particularly those airing certain TV programmes, seem bent on castigating the Police and can be perceived as championing the "cause" of criminals.

This attitude has forced people to begin to ask on which side do these media houses stand.

The media are not supposed to take sides on issues but to report as fairly, accurately and as balanced as possible. At times, for deadline pressures and other constraints, it is not possible to live up to these ideals but efforts must be made to be fair and the media cannot be seen to be on the side of the `unrighteous'.

And being fair is not what is being perceived from the frequent offerings of some media houses.

The media wield unbelievable power and if used in a negative way they can contribute to the disintegration and destruction of society.

Media play a significant role in shaping the minds of people, hence the shape and values of society. Therefore the media must influence national development positively rather than engaging in spreading wild rumours, unnecessarily castigating the security forces, justifying acts of criminality and deliberately or otherwise sowing seeds of ethnic discord.

Media owners also have an important role to play in this process and therefore, those especially in the electronic arena, should be selective in the type of programmes they air.

Of course some would contend that in a democracy the media should be free to air whatever programmes they see fit.

On the other hand it can be argued that the true essence of democracy is that freedom carries important responsibilities to ensure the preservation and development of society.