Why did Stabroek not publish Reeaz’s side of the story?
June 3, 2004
Guyana is a powder keg, ready to set off at the slightest spark. It does not take much for rumors to quickly spread throughout the land and for misinformation to assume a life of its own, often with disastrous consequences.
The examples of this happening are many. In the disturbances of the sixties, we once had a situation where attempts were made to agitate a large crowd by the circulation of a rumor that a child had been killed by the security forces. During the period of the 1997 elections, a few days after the polls had closed, a rumor swept through the country, like a forest fire out of control. The rumor led to a large crowd assembling outside the home of a man. The crowd was adamant that ballot boxes were being stored in the man’s home. Another incident was in 1997 when there was a report that voter identification cards were found at the Mandela Dumpsite. This set off great suspicion about the electoral process. In the 2001 elections, a polling agent attached to the ruling party was manhandled in Sophia and then placed in the trunk of a vehicle and taken to a location where he was interrogated.
One of the reasons why shark oil specialists do well in Guyana is because of the ease with which we deceive ourselves. For these reasons, the media must exercise a special responsibility when reporting. The media must explore all sides of an issue before it goes to press. Responsibility is not just about both sides; it is about all sides. And media irresponsibility has been at the heart of many of our problems over the past seven years.
It is therefore critical that newspapers take care about what they publish. Selective grasps at the truth may do justice to one side, favor a particular course, or serve a particular outcome, whether intentionally or not, but by its very biases, these selective grasps will equally not tell the entire truth and may in the process cause irreparable harm to others. In this business, the duty of journalists is not just to seek the truth but the entire truth. One person may tell his or her story. He or she may be telling the truth. But that is not the entire truth In recent days, Stabroek News has done itself a dishonor by its reporting of the unfolding Reeaz Khan saga. For a newspaper that has the reputation of having contributed in no small measure to press freedom in Guyana, for a newspaper, which has been in the business for so many years, for a newspaper which can boast about a cadre of professional journalists and has editors of distinction, its entire treatment of this matter left much to be desired. How can a reputable newspaper carry reports of this incident without giving Reeaz’s side of the story or properly investigating what it was being told?
Luckily, we have Kaieteur News that was able to do a balanced piece of reporting in yesterday’s edition. It was very refreshing to read the story in yesterday’ edition which blew away the covers that for days had shielded the entire truth from the Guyanese public. The Kaieteur News story shed light on aspects of the matter, which we never knew. The full truth is now coming out, thanks to the reporting of this newspaper. What the public did not know, from reading the Stabroek News, they now know from reading the Kaieteur News. And the Kaieteur News was not one-sided. The story carried in yesterday’s paper did not just carry Reeaz’s side of the story; it also provided the mother of the teen at the center of the dispute, with the opportunity to react to Reeaz’s claims. The Kaieteur News’s story, “Reeaz Khan breaks his silence on alleged abduction” is masterfully written and a fine example of how a newspaper story should be researched and written.
Stabroek News for all its lamentations about journalistic standards, ethics, training and fairness, has not followed its own rule of thumb. What agenda does the Stabroek News have that for days it was running this very story but did not provide us with Reeaz’s side or have the common decency to state what efforts it made to contact him? Why did Stabroek News not report earlier about the issue of joint custody of the child? Did it also check as to the owner of the vehicle in which it said the girl was taken away last Saturday? Is this fair reporting?
The courts will settle the substantive issues about custody and abduction. This article is not about those matters. It is not about who is right or who is wrong. This article is about shameless reporting by an entity that ought to know better. This article is about the a failure of a leading newspaper in Guyana, the Stabroek News to follow basic journalistic practices and ensure that the element of fairness was practiced by contacting Reeaz Khan for his side of the story.
A number of organisations have come out in support of the child’s mother. I hope now that Kaieteur News has shed light on certain matters and provided information hitherto unknown those organisations will take the time and effort to properly research the facts.
Well done, Kaieteur News! Keep up the good work. Shame on you Stabroek News! Put yourself in order!