Jun 30, 2008 Letters Comments Off on Journalism of speculations and allegations
About 200 years ago, President Jefferson said: “The only security of all is in a free press.” And in 1823, he said: “The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to…”
But, today, in many different parts of the world, Jefferson’s statements could be re-written as: “The only danger of all is in a false media. The force of its false opinion must be rejected when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be refuted.”
And, today, a serious danger in Guyana is in its false media. It’s becoming worse. Quite recently, the media reported on the discovery of the decomposed bodies of eight miners at their camp, 10 miles from Christmas Falls, in the Berbice River. The media then became pregnant with reporting on speculations that the Joint Services killed the miners, among other irresponsible statements.
The Joint Services subsequently issued a statement denying such an outrageous allegation. And, indeed, the media speculations became ubiquitous.
Then, claiming to have information from some well-placed sources in the Police Forensic Unit, the media carried some kind of ballistics test results maintaining that the spent shells were not linked to the ‘Fine Man Gang.’ But the Guyana Police Force debunked this claim, indicating that the four spent shells showed links to the Lusignan and Bartica massacres, and other crimes.
How could these so-called ‘responsible’ media release such sensitive information without an ounce of verification? The media, on this occasion seeking cover through some ‘well-placed sources,’ said what they said in order to avoid complying with the verification principle in journalism.
Recall the media report, some years ago, on some ‘lie detector’ test that the U.S. Embassy allegedly executed. I believe there was no lie detector, so, therefore, there could not have been a test. This is journalism of allegations and speculations in action.
Clearly, there is a current wave of a well-orchestrated media campaign against the Joint Services, as they aggressively continue their operations against this new criminality.
And that’s not the end of the story. There is a daily eruption of fog facts in the news, where useful information systematically fades away through opinioned newscasts. The result is a paralysis of analysis of the information.
Regular distortions and deceptions in the news in the electronic and print media fester and linger, when the important stories of the day are neglected or receive a biased presentation. in this way, people’s misgivings about the media increase.
Let’s take columnists. Quite a few attempt to regularly distort the political history of this country. Here are some examples of their distortions: Guyana has no democracy; Guyana is a fragile state; Guyana is a failed state; and more recently, Guyana is an elected dictatorship. If Guyana were truly an elected dictatorship, those columnists spewing their daily distortions would be hauled away from the media floor.
There is still another side to these media distortions; excessive usage of “reports suggest,” “reliable reports state,” “this newspaper understands” may, in some cases, conceal non-compliance with the verification principle. Journalists do not have to reveal their sources, but given the existing sensitivities in some stories, editors have to exercise greater vigilance where clearly excesses are being committed in the “reliable reports state” reportage. And so what we have is a journalism of allegations, not a journalism of verification.
At any rate, presenting distortions allows media houses to advance their own political agendas. Invariably, the newscasts read as political broadcasts. And so, incontrovertibly, some media houses drive particular political lines, affording tacit support for suspecting political candidates.
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