Irresponsible journalism can be harmful to society
--- USAID Mission Director
Guyana Chronicle
January 31, 2004

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MISSION Director of the United States Agency for International Development, Dr. Mike Sarhan, yesterday expressed displeasure at an editorial "in one of the newspapers" for publishing figures "that were clearly wrong" on the number of Guyanese leaving the country each year.

In a speech he delivered at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel at a USAID-organized seminar "Linking Back to Communities of Origin: Contribution of the Guyanese Diaspora," Dr. Sarhan said the figures quoted in the editorial on Thursday represented "nothing short of irresponsible journalism."

Dr. Sarhan did not identify the newspaper, but a GINA bulletin on Thursday said Stabroek News Business Supplement misrepresented statistics on Guyana's migration rate when it said that "50,000 Guyanese emigrated in 2002 and it is estimated that, annually, 20,000 to 30,000 persons are leaving these shores."

GINA said the supplement editorial ignored a note by USAID admitting that the figures, appearing in a report on remittances to Guyana by Dr. Manuel Orozoo, were printed in error.

Said Dr. Sarhan at the seminar at Le Meridien Pegasus yesterday:

"I was particularly deterred by some of the data published in one of the editorials in one of the newspapers (Thursday) regarding the number of Guyanese leaving the country.

"One of the topics of the editorial was timely, very critical and I think there was some good information in the editorial. It was important and also addressed serious problems in Guyana in terms of brain drain and so on. However, the figures used to make this argument were clearly wrong and they were projected without citing the source. And because of that the credibility and the value of the entire piece, in my opinion, has been eroded.

"Without further investigation and strong evidence, is in my opinion nothing short of irresponsible journalism. The Guyanese people deserve and should receive better information in reporting from the media across the great nation.

"To this end, I would like to strongly urge my good friends and colleagues in the media to adhere to the most strict and high standards of reporting and to avoid by all means reporting, inaccurate or (inaudible) information.

"There is a critical role for the media to play in democracy and Guyana can (inaudible) its democracy. I think the media can play a positive and constructive role. And this is.... I underline that because as Guyana moves forward, we need to be very serious as what we put in the newspapers or what we broadcast on radio and television.

"People look at the media as the source of information and sometimes once w have something which is reported (inaudible) it is very difficult to reverse and retract what was said because people already have their own impressions.

"I plea to the media to please stick to the facts and conform your source of information before you put anything in the newspapers or on television."