The Manickchand “teacher remark”
One of the most disappointing moments for me as a media practitioner came last week when KN’s editor Adam Harris violated one the most sacred principles in journalism. In journalism editors only retract their reporters’ stories when proof exists that the published version was not an accurate content.
This is a guiding principle in the profession. An editor can destroy his/her newspaper and the career of his/her journalist by denying the accuracy of the report when in fact it may be true
Mrs. Kieran Singh-Danny, a former student of mine transmitted to her newspaper, the Kaieteur News, words uttered by Education Minister, Priya Manickchand to the effect that if teachers disapprove of the type of salaries they receive they should leave the teaching profession. Minister Manickchand denied what was carried to Adam Harris who retracted Ms. Singh-Danny’s published coverage
Mrs. Singh-Danny told Mr. Harris that she sticks by what she heard, meaning that the Minister did say what was printed. As it stands it was the Minister’s words versus the journalist’s.
The matter was simple to determine because the Minister told Harris she would forward the NCN tape to him. Harris should have printed his retraction on receipt of the tape.
On Sunday morning, Mrs. Singh-Danny told me that she does not believe that at the time of speaking to me, Mr. Harris has viewed the tape. I am of the opinion that the recording is still to be handed to Mr. Harris.
Mrs. Singh-Danny told me that only NCN and the Chronicle were present for the address of the Minister. It means that Ms. Sing-Danny was the only journalist that covered the Minister’s speech from the private media. Was Mr. Harris mindful of libel? The answer has to be yes.
But since the Minister agreed to submit a filmed version of her speech, then the retraction had to printed after the viewing, not before. Libel or no libel, there was no choice facing Mr. Harris; he had to apologize after the saw he tape
As matters now stand, a reporter’s credibility is on the line. The way out of this is for media personnel to view the tape. We can know if a tape has been edited. If within two days, Minister Manickchand cannot produce the NCN item, then I am calling on Mr. Harris to defend the integrity of Mrs. Singh-Danny publicly. At the moment is it the word of a politician versus a journalist.
We have to choose or we can wait to hear/see the recording. Whatever comes out of this, it holds deep significance for the practice of journalism in Guyana, and I call upon all media practitioners to offer their comments on Mr. Harris’s decision
Editor’s note: The issue from the newspaper’s point of view was closed when the reporter could not provide evidence of what the Minister said. It had nothing to rely on.
The onus should not be on the Minister to provide evidence of what was not said. It is on the reporter to prove what was said.
The writer would realize that on many occasions the newspaper has had to appear in court to defend libel because the reporter could not defend what was written. There is one such case now about a former GuySuCo employee.