The real horror story PEEPING TOM
Kaieteur News

June 4, 2004

Related Links: Articles on abducted 13 year old
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WHAT is going on with the Stabroek News? What is that newspaper trying to achieve by its one-sided coverage of the Reeaz Khan affair? While this column acknowledges the seriousness of some of the concerns raised, why the overkill by the Stabroek News? Why the sensationalism?

Yesterday’s headlines read “More horror at businessman’s tryst with child.” I first read the headline in my toilet while doing my early morning bowel-emptying routine. As I picked up the newspaper, reflexively I took a glance at the roll of toilet paper in the paper rack. I do not know why I did this. It just happened.

Upon seeing the headline, I got excited, thinking that there had been a new twist to this saga. I got so excited that I went before my time. Eventually, I settled down and read the article and was so infuriated by what I read that I thought about flushing the newspaper down with the contents of my bowels.

What was the meaning of this headline? What is the “more horror” that the Staborek News is talking about? That the IAC says that it was concerned about the sordid developments in the case; that a GIHA representative denied telling this newspaper that she would have to speak to the child’s mother and her lawyer before commenting further? Was it the position by the WPO that the age of consent needs to be changed? Or is this whole issue about Kaieteur News?

If Kaieteur News is the reason behind this sensationalist, one-sided and unethical reporting by the Stabroek News, we should be told so.

I have already dealt with the Stabroek News’s breach of journalistic ethics in not seeking out Khan for a comment earlier or in stating what attempts were made to contact him.

This column has no interest in defending Khan. These articles are also not about the sexual relations; they are not about who should get the child or whether the mother is at fault. These columns that I have written on the subject are about the agenda of Stabroek News. Plain and simple!

Was it not the Stabroek News that made the point that the media should strive for a professional culture of journalism which understands the duties to be fair, accurate and balanced in reporting? Was it not that newspaper that urged, “Where media are consistently unprofessional or reveal a clear, unchanging bias in their news coverage that point can and should be made.” Peeping Tom is making that point today.

The way the Reeaz Khan issue has been presented by the Stabroek News would make you think that the poor girl at the center of the imbroglio is the only sexually active 13-year-old in the country. Or is it because she is with an adult? What would have been the reaction had Reeaz Khan been 17 years old? Is this the first 13-year-old that has a boyfriend?

I want to know whether those in authority at the Stabroek News do not recognise that having run a story for two weeks without giving Khan the chance to put forward his side violates all the scared mores that have come to be associated with fairness in a newspaper.

Is the editorial board of the Stabroek News going to ask those involved with reporting this story to recuse themselves until the editorial board decides on what to do about the breach of journalistic ethics?

The issue does not end there because the Stabroek News continues about “more horror.” When I first saw the headlines, I thought that something horrible had happened over the last 24 hours. I did not know that this was Stabroek’s News way of dramatizing that other organisations had joined in condemning Khan and calling for a change in the law. Is this what Stabroek News is calling “more horror?” Did any of the organisations that have joined in the litany against Khan say they were horrified? The only thing that is horrifying is the coverage by the Stabroek News which leads me to believe there is more in the mortar than the pestle.

We need a press complaints body in this country to ensure that the highest standards of journalism are upheld and that media ethics are practiced. The Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) deals with the non-print media. But there is no body with which citizens can file complaints about unethical reporting.

The print media in Guyana can feel comfortable and satisfied that it has not engaged in the sort of excesses that mark certain sections of the electronic media. Are we going to allow things to slip? Are we going to simply allow the media codes to which we subscribe to be trampled upon?

This is why Glen Lall is respected. If someone complains to Glen that the newspaper has been unfair to him or her, Glen does not avoid the issue. He deals with the issue right away. I recall when Uncle Freddie complained about the editor appending a note to his column.

Glen had the matter checked out and dealt with it in an open manner. Uncle Freddie’s complaint could have been treated as simply as an internal affair of a columnist complaining about the editor’s note but Glen Lall saw to it that the right thing was done publicly.

Glen also does not have any sacred cows and he can tell you to your face that you are wrong and in the next breath invite you to drink a beer. No man is perfect and no institution therefore should feel that it is beyond reproach.

There are many horror stories out there. The Reeaz Khan affair may frighten some people but there is nothing more horrible than what the Stabroek News did for close to two weeks in not contacting Reeaz for his side of the story.