September 25, 2016

The movie Spotlight and journalism in Guyana

This week I was experiencing a writer’s block and then I saw on television that the movie Spotlight won the best Oscar for picture. The movie is basically a newspaper drama of how the Roman Catholic Church has tried to cover-up sexual abuse by priests. The Atlantic, an American Magazine espouses that “The central cast isn’t the motley crew of self-destructive drunks and grandstanders you’d usually see—this is a film about the methodical process of reporting, not the stirring heroism behind it, and at the end of the film, it’s the story itself, not the journalists’ personal achievements, that stands triumphant.” Put differently in three words: Practice responsible journalism. The story produced is greater than the journalist’s ego.
The contents of film certainly resonate beyond the shores of the United States and it is arguably a sound message to journalists and columnists around the world, including Guyana. My take is that thirty to 40 per cent of what comes out in the daily columns in Guyana should be taken with a grain of salt and more. Propaganda journalism in Guyana is as deep as the Demerara River and as high as Mount Roraima.
That being said, the Freddie Kissoon face and faeces fiasco comes to mind. To recall, Kissoon was assaulted in May 2010 when faeces were thrown in his face. Three individuals – Former Presidential Liaison Officer, Kwame McCoy, self-confessed killing squad member Shawn Hinds and former Office of the President employee Jason Abdulla – were charged and these individuals will be in court starting March 11.
Whatever verdict comes out of that court hearing – guilty or not – the hope is that it will follow the fair journey of jurisprudence. I leave that for the court to decide.
There is a larger concern here that should appeal to all those who seek to write on controversial issues in the media. That is, the throwing of faeces on Kissoon’s face is wrong and should be condemned by all and sundry.
The attack on Kissoon is an attack on all those who choose to write. That attack is a disgraceful and dastardly act that has no place in the free world.
I propose that a bill be put forward in Parliament to provide protection to those who go out on a limb and be courageous enough and say it the way it is. Whatever protection exists right now, it is limited and insignificant.
In Kissoon’s head and trembling hands may not reside a staggering wealth of expertise. But that does not mean he should be attacked physically. He may not abide by the modus operandi of journalism but that does not mean he should be attacked. He may not be a skilled communicator or a gifted columnist but that does not mean he should be attacked. His rumbling baritone and his inflammatory rhetoric in his continuous catacombs of columns do not give anyone the right to attack him. Use your pen as much as he does.
I was told that I was wasting my time responding to Kissoon and I said that might be so but let the man write. Some say that Kissoon has crossed the line and my response is, let the man write. I take this position not only for Kissoon but for all those who write about Guyana in the media.
There are those who are besotted by Kissoon’s writings because they believe that he is informative and does well to society. Then there are those who believe that he should do more than what he is doing rather than less of it.
I believe that attempts to silence writers by whatever means is an attempt to silence what is going on. Writing, in any form, represents free speech and free speech is crucial to the development and sustainment of a free society. I believe that there is no organised effort to hurt journalists in Guyana but my philosophy is, hurting one affects all. The message is more dangerous than the action.
Personally, I do not feel totally comfortable writing the way I write in my weekly column for the fear of reprisal. Nevertheless, I am guided by this mantra. I live to write and write to live and I should have the right to write. Of course, there are limits to freedom of speech based on civility and consciousness but not on consternation. I urge my fellow Guyanese to pay attention to the message in Spotlight. (lomarsh.roopnarine@jsums.edu)

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