Professional ethics on television still sadly lacking

Stabroek News

November 3, 2003

Related Links: Letters on 'Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana' death
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Dear Editor,

I had a rather pleasant two week stay in Guyana recently, visiting Essequibo and Mahdia. I thank all those at the various places where I stayed including at the Friends Hotel on Robb Street for a relaxing stay.

I had time to monitor some of the local TV fare at the hotel. Over the years I have witnessed a steady improvement in the programming as well as technical presentation on some of Guyana’s TV stations. However, there is still a lot of junk. Overall, we know that there is more freedom now in the media sector. Some people argue, and I would agree with them, there is too much freedom. I read the draft of the new Broadcasting Bill outlining the necessary and reasonable measures to deal with an anarchical situation. All democratic governments worldwide recognise the need for publicly controlled, outside of the influence of private interests, broadcast entities to push, for example, developmental themes and projects. Those in Guyana must be supported and strengthened.

I monitored some of the talk show programs. When I was a journalist in the 1980s, I served as Chairman of the Professional Practices and Ethics sub-committee of the Barbados Association of Journalists (BAJ). I couldn’t believe the ignorance and unprofessionalism of some of these so-called hosts. For one thing, they are what are referred to in the print media as “advertising flyers”. The hosts are frequently seen holding onto a container of this or that product or referring to a service and extolling their virtues. How can a newsman or presenter, which these people are, be objective if they are paid to promote a product or service? They can’t.

Aside from running advertising businesses, there is a crude anti-government stance which undoubtedly embarrasses their string pullers who still retain a thread of decency about fairplay and serious journalism. I mean, when C.N. Sharma parades a young Amerindian woman, who complains she can’t afford to bury a relative, and generalizes with the essentially dishonest remark “they take land, trees, everything from Amerindians and now not even a board to bury the dead” one quickly recognises the need for the broadcasting legislation.

I saw the programme on “At Home With Roger” with two individuals talking about the purported plan of Hinduism “as a system of national control.” There isn t’ space to list the shortcomings of this argument. It carries the line as reportedly espoused in Dr. Keane Gibson’s controversial book. Freddie Kissoon has done a good job in analyzing this crypto-fascism (remember Hitler’s references to the Jewish “conspiracy”?), although I would have put it in a slightly different way.

Historically, religion played a role in moulding the direction of socio-ecomic and social ways of thinking and control. Some of it was bad, some good. One only has to recall the role of dynamic Protestantism in the emergence of capitalism, breaking away from backward, highly Catholic-dominated feudalism in Europe. But the point made by some contributors to the aforementioned debate about the overriding influence of plantation society, when the first indentured people came to Guyana, is well taken.

At the risk of further giving underserving publicity to Dr. Gibson’s booklet, one must note she has been championing, regardless of any honourable individual intentions, what may be considered as an essentially, racist line for some time now. A couple years ago, there were letters from her in the Barbados press with the headlines “The Hindustanisation of Guyana”. Their unscholarly and incorrect position damages the building of a just, prosperous, multi-racial Guyana.

Last year, she tried to again pander to the dominant black majority in Barbados by claiming blacks in Guyana were being discriminated against in the allocation of house lots. She criticized the Guyanese Honorary Consul’s information that the unprecedented housing reform in Guyana has benefited people of all races in a just and democratic way. Typically, she gave no credible evidence but reverted to vague and uncertified references such as “many Guyanese are saying”.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Faria

(Guyana’s Honorary Consul in Barbados)