VCT suspends staff member for a month
Stabroek News
May 23, 2002

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One person has been suspended from VCT Channel 28's Evening News for one month following the airing of the Andrew Douglas tape by the television station two weeks ago.

This was disclosed by VCT's owner Anthony Vieira last night during his commentary following the station's newscast anchored by Tommy Rhodes.

Vieira said he was out of the country at the time of the incident on May 9 and upon his return on May 16, he carried out his own investigations. He said the Douglas tape was not solicited by VCT 28 but was delivered by a person or persons unknown.

The airing of the Douglas tape by VCT and several other stations has sparked a furore as Douglas styled himself a `freedom fighter' and made a series of allegations against the police all the while holding a high-powered gun. Douglas and four other men escaped from the Camp Street jail on February 23 killing a prison guard and seriously wounding another. They remain at large and have been linked to a series of brutal crimes committed since February 23.

Vieira concluded that the first action that should have been initiated was for a copy of the tape to be made by the station and the original sent to the police. The station should have then awaited a response or comment from the police and if none was forthcoming after a 24-hour period, then the tape should have been aired. VCT aired the tape first and a copy was made available to the police following the broadcast.

Vieira stated that Rhodes reported that he had subsequently contacted the Commissioner of Police for a reaction to the contents of the tape and the charges made by Douglas but received no response.

Vieira said there were no guidelines to state that the airing of the tape was illegal. He declared his station did nothing subversive or criminal. This would have been the case, he stated, if VCT Channel 28 had declared support for Douglas, but the fact was that the station condemned the escapees' actions.

He pointed out that the United States media had broadcast tapes of wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden and other high profile criminals including Mafia bosses. This was part of freedom of expression, freedom of the press and living in a democracy, he stated.

Vieira said he looked at the tape several times and expressed concern that the authorities did not come out with a statement to answer the charges made by Douglas. He said he felt Douglas was just discrediting his fellow Afro-Guyanese and dividing the country along racial lines.

WRHM Channel 7's Capitol News broadcast the tape the same evening and NBTV Channel 9 aired it the following morning on the Wake Up Guyana programme.

Douglas escaped from the Georgetown prison on February 23 along with Troy Dick, Mark Fraser, Shawn Brown, and Dale Moore.