– visiting Canadian Journalist urges at media seminar
By: Feona Morrison
Veteran Canadian Journalist, Kim Bolan, from the Vancouver Sun, a Canadian newspaper, has urged local journalists to not only report locally, but to think globally.
Bolan, who has over 30 years’ experience in the profession, made these remarks during a two-day seminar held to sensitise journalists on reporting on criminal investigations and court cases.
The event which commenced on Saturday was held at the Guyana Police Force (GPF) Officers’ Training Centre. It was funded by Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Programme (ACCBP), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
It was one of many training sessions held by the Justice Education Society (JES), a project funded by Canada’s ACCBP, and aimed at strengthening Guyana’s Justice System.
The JES is a non-profit organization with over 25 years of experience. Its mission is to build strong communities by promoting the understanding of, access to, and confidence in justice systems both in Canada and internationally.
Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George; Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan; Magistrates Crystal Lambert and Zamilla Ally-Seepaul; Commander of Police ‘A’ Division, Marlon Chapman; Police Public Relation Officer (PRO) Superintendent of Police Jairam Ramlakhan; President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA) Neil Marks; JES Project Manager, Evelyn Newman, and other senior police officers were among the audience.
Also attending were journalists attached to Kaieteur News, Stabroek News, the Guyana Chronicle; Guyana Times; Newsroom, Prime News, News Source, HPGTV Nightly News, Department of Public Information (DPI), Demerara Waves, Capital News among others.
During her PowerPoint presentation, Bolan told journalists that the stories they do locally may have connections to other countries (internationally). She urged them to “dig” into stories so as to expose connections between local and international incidents.
This award winning Journalist has reported on wars in Afghanistan and the bombing and trials related to the Air India Flight 182. She said that the work of Journalists has a huge impact on the community and country.
During her career, Bolan recalled that her life was the subject of a murder plot, which she reported on.
There was a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities in working with the police and building mutual trust. During this discussion, several Journalists highlighted the difficulties they encounter obtaining information from the police.
Denis Chabrol, who is attached to Demerara Waves, said that police are still to send out a press statement on the recent attempted robbery at Republic Bank, Water Street, Georgetown.
Members of the media were given a chance to speak about the challenges faced in reporting on crime, criminal investigations and criminal court proceedings. They also suggested mechanism that could assist them to give the public up-to-date and informative reports.
Nazima Raghubir, another Journalist, said the GPF website cannot be relied on for information since it has not been updated for quite some time. Police PRO Superintendent Ramlakhan revealed that a new website is being developed.
He added that a WhatsApp group which consists of commanders from across all police divisions and reporters has helped the police in solving crimes.
Journalists were briefed on practices that can compromise court cases and crime scenes; and harm the public good in relation to minors and victims of sexual offences matters.
Bolan urged Journalists reporting on court cases to familiarize themselves with the Laws of Guyana and the elements of an offence for which a person is charged.
According to Bolan, Journalists should be fair in their reporting and should cover arguments raised by the defence and prosecution. She reiterated that a person is innocent of an offence until proven guilty and as such when carrying reports on them words like “alleged” and “accused” must be used where necessary.
Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan was very vocal about the dos and don’ts when reporting on matters involving minors and sexual offences.
The Chief Magistrate explained that the identities (names and photos) of victims should not be published. Chief Magistrate McLennan further explained that in a sexual offence case where the perpetrator is related to the victim, the address and relationship of the perpetrator to the victim should not be published.
The Chief Magistrate also advised that it is not wise to publish the photographs of minors accused of crimes blocking their eyes alone because there is a possibility the person could be recognized by those known to them.
In relation to domestic violence matter filed under the Criminal Law Offence Act, the Chief Magistrate said that since these matters are heard in open court Journalists should use their discretion when carrying reports on sensitive information.
According to Justice George, the media cannot report the evidence presented in Preliminary Inquiries (PI). Justice George, however said, it is acceptable for reporters to carry the names of witnesses who testified in a PI. Additionally, the acting Chief Justice said that reporters are not allowed to report on Voir Dire (trial within a trial).
Justice George, the Chief Magistrate and the other Magistrates, Commander Chapman and senior police ranks engaged Journalists in interactive discussions during which some burning issues were raised.
The seminar touched on other areas like investigative reporting and identifying areas of research for potential stories. The presenters guided Journalists on how to develop sources for information.
Bolan, with the help of Chabrol, introduced Journalists to several websites like PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), BOP.gov, search.sunbiz.com, regulations.gov and others.
“In your spare time you can check out some of these sites. You will be amazed as to the amount of information you can find. For instance, with PACER you can access U.S. Appellate, District, Criminal and Bankruptcy court records.
“BOP.gov is the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web Site. Using this site, Journalists were able to see when a Guyanese who was convicted in the U.S for drug trafficking will be released from prison.
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