Hysteria ...or Conspiracy? Viewpoint by OBSERVER
Guyana Chronicle
January 29, 2004

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IN RECENT weeks, some sections of the media in Guyana, became trapped in a web of sensationalism, desperation and reckless adventure, burying the tenets of journalistic ethics and identifying themselves with political witch-hunters.

I refer to the allegations about the existence of "death squads" and implicating public officials.

Great harm has been done to the National Security sector through media excesses with the publication of telephone records of the Head of that sector. In the opinion of many, the media acted irresponsibly, basing their reports on mere hearsay, disclosures and personal opinion.

Was the media misrepresentation of the George Bacchus issue meant merely to confuse the general public, or was there a more conspirational aspect to the episode?

Up to Friday, January 23, 2004 at 5:00pm when this viewpoint was written, George Bacchus has net made an official statement to any arm of the State. George Bacchus' disclosures have absolutely nothing to do with the arrest and subsequent charge of three persons for the murder of Shafeek Bacchus.

When asked for a statement on the allegations made against certain public officials, George Bacchus failed to do so. Even when certain aspects of the reports were recognized as being false, media houses failed to retract their initial stories. The Stabroek News, News Today, Capitol News and Evening News are guilty of these transgressions.

In the Tuesday, January 13 edition of the Stabroek News, the front page caption stated that George Bacchus confronted two men whom he suspected were involved in the drive-by shooting that left his brother dead.

Also untrue was another story that was carried, stating that George Bacchus had passed a lie detector test. These stories were never retracted or corrected. This is not only irresponsible journalism by some local media houses, but equally unacceptable with an unrepentant attitude toward their excesses.

The Stabroek News again transgressed, stating that the Director of Public Prosecution had advised that Axel Williams be charged with murder. This was on the front page on January 19. This was dispelled, not by an official of the State, but by the Kaieteur News on January 20. Once again the Stabroek News failed to correct its initial story.

This Newspaper also said that there were special 999 numbers assigned for special purposes. However, in Guyana there are no such numbers. This could be verified by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Limited.

The most recent incident was the Evening News of Thursday, January 22, 2004 which carried an item that juxtaposed the punishment of high officials for crimes and Minister Gajraj.

These are all examples of poor and irresponsible handling of allegations made by George Bacchus. The media have failed to act responsibly since the information they have acted on and manipulated, are merely allegations and speculation.

In my opinion, when these allegations surfaced, they presented an excellent opportunity for the local media to carry out investigative journalism.

By jumping on the bandwagon of political witch-hunters, the media wittingly or unwittingly, aligned themselves with the anti-Government minority.

The issue is still simmering. The talkative George Bacchus is silent. The witch-hunters had their day. Will another opportunity be presented to give the local media a chance to vindicate themselves?