Reeaz is also owed an apology PEEPING TOM
Kaieteur News

June 11, 2004

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THE reason why there were no massive demonstrations last week outside of our Courts in the custody case involving a 13- year-old girl, had to do with the coverage given to this matter by the Kaieteur News.

It was this newspaper, which through its fair and balanced reporting of the matter that helped to defuse an explosive situation from developing in our streets.

For two weeks, the public was fed one side of the issue by the Stabroek News. The side of Reeaz Khan was not sought. No attempts were also made to explain why the newspaper did not provide his side.

As such what most people had to go on were the accounts in the Stabroek News. But this was only the partial truth. It did not cover all the bases and thus public perception of this saga was more or less directed by what was out in the public domain through reports in the Stabroek News.

And what went out was the story of a sexual predator, hawking upon a young, innocent girl.

The women’s groups hit the roof. This was unacceptable. How could this be happening? Action had to be taken. What was at stake was the security of our children. Emotive stuff that would have filled the streets outside of our courts!

But no one, except Kaieteur News asked Reeaz anything. No one asked him whether the allegations were true and whether he had anything to say. He did have a lot to say and when he said it, certain contradictions arose. What also arose was the Stabroek News’ flagrant violation of media ethics.

The Stabroek News did a grave injustice to Reeaz. A grave injustice was done to the readership of that newspaper because they were not provided with the whole truth.

Yet no one from the Stabroek News has seen it fit to apologise to either Khan or to the readers of that newspaper for only presenting a limited perspective on the issue.

I want to ask all of my readers out there: suppose one day something happened to you and your name becomes embroiled in public allegations, how would you feel if a newspaper covering the issue did not carry your side?

I want to give another example of how misleading one–sided reporting can be. A blaring headline in the June 7, Stabroek News blared, “Declaration robs Sarwan of triple century feat”. Yet the Reuters story that was below that headline made no issue of the declaration robbing Sarwan of the triple century.

Sarwan has since said that he agreed with the decision because of the fear of the weather interrupting the West Indies march to victory. That headline was misleading, as was another about horror, over the Reeaz Khan affair.

But if the breach of journalistic ethics was not bad enough, the Stabroek News continues to compound the injustice and in the process to confound its supporters with its excursions into this issue. Its report of Saturday June 5 left much to be desired. In a show of disrespect for the courts, it went on to carry certain comments by the President of the Guyana Human Rights Association, Mr. Mike Mc Cormack.

When I read the Stabroek News of Tuesday June 8 and then read the Kaieteur News of the same day, I was wondering whether it was two different trials that were being covered. Unless you would have read the Kaieteur News, certain important things would have escaped you. It was Kaieteur News, which pointed out that the court was displeased with the comments of Mike Mc Cormack published in the Stabroek News three days prior.

Yesterday in an editorial, the Stabroek News apologized to the Court for comments made in its article of Saturday 5 June 2004. This is commendable on the part of that newspaper and I would like to applaud them for doing so. But when are they going to apologise to their readership and especially to Mr. Reeaz Khan for their unfair treatment of him? When is Stabroek News going to apologise to Reeaz Khan?

Since they began running this saga, Reeaz Khan has been called all manner of names in public. He has been defiled in the eyes of the public based on perceptions formed by the public about the propriety of his behaviour. He is in part to blame for that but so too are those who helped to frame the public’s opinion of this matter and by this I mean the Stabroek News.

Reeaz’s Khan’s visa to travel to the United States of America has been recalled. He is a businessman who needs to travel to make his living. This lifeline has now been unplugged from him. I do not know the reasons for the recalling of his visa. The United States Embassy says it does not publicly discuss these matters, but the timing of the revocation cannot be missed.

And I am asking whether it is not reasonable to conclude that the revocation had to do with this issue. If this were so then Reeaz would have been bitten twice because of poor reporting standards.

There are honourable men and women within the Stabroek News.

Do the right thing and apologise to this boy! You have done him a great disservice and a public apology is the least you can offer as recompense.

The Christian Science Monitor said that the nine biggest words in journalism are: “To injure no one but to bless all mankind”

To injure no one is to present the truth with the utmost respect for the rights of others. To bless all mankind is to “elevate dialogue and bring a new understanding.”

These words are worth recalling at this time of selective apologies and corrections.