I now know how powerful TV is
My Column by Adam Harris
June 27, 2004
The past week has been as hectic as that week in October 2002 when Dale Moore, Mark Fraser and so many others died. I can still remember the horror when people said that seventeen people had died in a week. Among those 17 were Othneil Embrack called Agouti and four others.
That many people did not die violently but the confusion was just as great. The man, who spilled the beans on the so-called death squad and who said that there were people out there trying to kill him, did fulfill the self-fulfilling prophecy. He was gunned down in his sleep.
It was during my work as a reporter to secure details of that killing and the other aspects of the man everyone knew, George Bacchus, that I came face to face with a stark reality. One television newsman broadcast that I had switched. Of course, he told me later that he simply asked a question.
Then his employer, Mr. Anthony Vieira, in a commentary broadcast on September 12, 2003, hinted at the same thing. I learnt then how widely watched the television station was. People from all walks of life and from just about every corner of coastal Guyana decided that something was wrong. There were those who were certain that I had indeed ‘switched’ and there were those who were uncertain. One way or another I was tainted in this politically polarised society. I spoke with some but for those who held tightly to the view, I simply let them have their way. I had long since learnt that it was almost impossible to change strongly held views.
It was the same when Freddie Kissoon and Tony Vieira had their tussle. People, who love to hate Tony Vieira, latched on to the contention that Mr. Vieira had made a racial remark in reference to Freddie Kissoon. After that, it mattered not what he said; the deed was done.
Kaieteur News firmly established itself as a widely read newspaper. Many people had actually seen the Freddie Kissoon column and they responded with scathing letters against Mr. Vieira.
People telephoned me to intervene. They contended that I, as president of the Guyana Press Association, should see to it that people in the media do not sling mud at each other. Many were supporters of Mr. Vieira and hated Freddie Kissoon with a vengeance. I promised to try.
My first effort involved asking Freddie Kissoon for evidence that Vieira did use a racial slur. People had gone to the Internet to check on the commentary and they all said that they saw nothing to indicate the charge by Freddie Kissoon.
Then came the allegation that Mr. Vieira might have doctored the commentary. I called him and he immediately sent a text of the commentary. He did more. He sent me a note that explained how he posts his material on the Internet.
“Attached is the original commentary from my computer in Microsoft word. It is what I e-mailed to the prompter computer at the studio; it is what I recorded to tape for broadcast and it is what was uploaded to the website by Clarence Garraway.
“I don't know how to upload files to the website. I do not even have the password. Garraway is senior staff at GUYSUCO; he is a churchman and he would not be a part of any shenanigans, even if I was predisposed to do it and you know me. I don't play these dirty games.”
I believed Vieira so I thought that it would be a good thing if Freddie could present the evidence. Needless to say that sparked a heated discussion.
Freddie did say that he would produce the evidence to certain people but not to people who have an agenda and for whom he has no respect.
I checked the commentary and indeed there was some rough language. I would not repeat them for fear of libel.
But I would produce some pieces. “Before I do commentary tonight, I want to tell you about a complete fool known to the public as Pfreddie (sic) Kissoon. Now in my absence on holiday this jackass took what was supposed to be personal correspondence between one Bert Wilkinson and myself and published all of it in the newspaper.”
That was certainly not the kind of language a responsible person would use.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the fact that Pfreddie has tied tongue and that he is as ugly as hell, did not really come into the equation, but it should have. Indian people are by and large beautiful people, if I am not mistaken two Indian Girls won the Miss World and Miss Universe titles in the same year or succeeding years, but when an Indian decide he ugly then he ugly for so, and Pfreddie is a prime example.”
That could be construed as a racial slur but the comment that Vieira said that Freddie has African blood was never there.
Now if there was wickedness afoot I do not know. What I do know is that Mr. Vieira should not have used the language he did and Freddie should not have embellished and I say so because I have not seen evidence to the contrary.
It seems as if the matter is now over and I hope that it is. As Freddie wrote, we need to set examples for our children. The media are powerful and children emulate what we the people with access to the media take to them in their homes.