Miscellaneous media matters Frankly Speaking...
By A.A. Fenty
Stabroek News
March 8, 2002

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I would have to conceded that, in the aftermath of the Republic Day dramatic and bloody jail-break, the Public Relations effort, the basic public information eked out from Police sources has been woefully inadequate. This newspaper has already pointed all that out in comments and editorials.

This is not to say that the delicate or awkward - or embarrassing - position of the police cannot be appreciated. They just cannot release too much information (prematurely) for fear of compromising their manhunt by showing their hands. But what rankles me much is that they are not even providing (friendly folk) with the minimum information "allowable" or unclassified that would help people to help them in their search for the murderous convicted bandits.

This untimely void is great breeding ground for the Bandits' Buddies to paint partisan pictures, to obscure perspectives, to shift the focus from the dangerous desperadoes to all sort of (obvious) official shortcomings. It was and is as sickening as it was predictable that the usual teleactivists would seize the opportunity to "do their thing" on behalf of the bandits' "cause". I know it is ironic-though undesirable - for me to state that sometimes I don't blame these political teleactivists for prosecuting their agendas. Because you see, the official responses are either soft, indifferent or too dismissive. Things and times are open, free and "democratic" now.

No wonder, the Forbes in me, sometimes recalls, with knowing "regret", the Burnham treatment of these present-day opponents of peace. Burnham's harsh prescribed penalties would have effectively deterred these "truth-tellers" to utter silence and/or exile. I mean, could you-all, over forty especially, imagine the fate of the C.N. Sharmas of this Guyana world under Linden Forbes? Or his responses to the openly crass, libelous, treasonable goings-on, on local television, in the name of anti-government exposes? Ask the fellow at the Catholic Standard, Moses N. or Dr Roop.

My oh my! Don't take me too seriously about what I seem to admire. Actually, I was a small part of the "machinery" then, and would not like those strategies to return. I don't suppose they ever could-under this softie regime anyhow. But my Lord!

Respected Caribbean media experts, Dwight Whylie and Harry Mayers, who were being soundly 'bused by the leading local political teleactivists this time last year, called the journalistic anarchy here, "a cast of dangerous extremes" when they investigated and sought to advise on journalistic ethics, behaviour and standards, even, or especially in the context of a (civilised) election campaign.

Respected elsewhere in the Region, the two gentlemen were targeted especially by a journalist who had intrigued the Caribbean experts with the relatively new theory in his profession, to wit: "I/we provide the rumour, you find the evidence!" The poor bemused but concerned Media Monitoring and Refereeing Panel was constrained to note that: "this... dangerous mischief... violates many tenets of professional journalism and several clauses of the Media Code of Conduct... " And that was in reference to only one incident of media mischief allowed here.

Nothing much has changed. With a weak of indifferent government response nothing on that television front will change. That's because the (permitted) formula is simple for survival: concoct, cause or support a contention; "host" call-ins from regulars; let "the people" speak out. Popular programme, many advertisements. Keep the political pot boiling publicly with special servings of "the truth" Reasonable rewards. At the expense of their "own people". My Lord!

There was and is another slightly disturbing element, especially in one section of the print media, in the aftermath of the JAILBREAK. First, I digress to let the uninitiated know that in some countries journalists guard zealously their "sources" and informants whether those latter are in jail, or rebel commanders seeking to overthrow the government, mafia-like mobsters - or Opposition Leaders or Police Commissioners. Here a journalist may have a girl-friend secretary or a gentleman friend in a Ministry. They get the leaked facts and figures first. All (not so) fair and square for the scoop. Part and parcel of "the profession".

Well, last week I was privy to seeing how one 'paper', utilising "popular" tabloid techniques to "sell like hell", used obvious police "sources" to good effect. It was first on the hijacking or robbery scenes and was first to publish. But in certain reports there were dangerous levels of irresponsibility as their leaked information - gladly published - could have compromised one person's safety. Yes, a life could be endangered, on the altar of cheap journalistic expediency.

Perhaps the head of the Guyana press association should remind, caution or advise.


Today marks the formal end to this year's Mashramani festival of activities. There is the Presentation of Prizes and Awards at the Umana Yana in Georgetown this afternoon.

A review and assessment of the week-long celebration was done earlier in the week. The National Mashramani Committee will go into recess. By June it is to be up and running for 2003. Old-fashioned courtesy makes me leave the rest to the indefatigable culture Minister Gail Teixeira. However, as I had urged other interested Guyanese to do, I have submitted for her consideration, a short list of activities that I feel a permanent Mashramani Secretariat - or call it whatever - should be doing throughout the year.

A sampling: (i) training your calypsonians, arrangers of scores, steelpan-turners and costume designers; (ii) keeping in touch with overseas Guyanese artistes; (iii) in collaboration with the private sector perhaps, staging calypso shows, steelband concerts during the year, (iv) unearthing talent in rural and hinterland communities and (v) motivating the private sector to come up with Mash Tourism packages and the production of a wide array of Mashramani momentoes.

Yes, there is lots for a permanent Mash Secretariat to do!

Parting Shots...

1) How thrilled I was. My Editor, usually and normally low profile, not even attending local "events" was actually down under - in Australia!

2) Whose lives are at stake when hunting those escapees - bandits?

3) After my piece on new investments last Friday, GO-INVEST, which agency seems to play down publicity - will be asked to disclose all those new quiet developments. Like Soar To Africa!

4) Aubrey Norton wrote a few weeks ago that the PNC was no longer an Opposition "of any consequence". And opened a Can of Worms. Who likes worms?

5) Please, please, is it not time to discontinue: "This is a call to a cellular Number and will cost ten dollars per minute"? Please

'Til next week!