Once again the issues of social media use and the flagrant abuse of power by public officials have come to the fore. In an article dated January 31, 2018, the Guyana Chronicle reported, inter alia, that criminal charges were recommended by the Department for Public Prosecutions (DPP) against The Bishops’ High School teacher, Coen Jackson.
Within hours of this publication, and following a strongly worded refutation by the DPP, the Chronicle made an “unreserved” retraction of the “erroneous article” and offered its “sincerest” apologies to Mr. Jackson, his attorneys, and the DPP via its online platform.
Besides the obvious legal challenges that may beset the Chronicle stemming from the aforementioned publication, there is perhaps the more pressing issue of ethical misconduct by the Newspaper’s management.
Is it mere coincidence that the Guyana Chronicle was the only media outlet which had access to what has since been exposed as misinformation, and that Mr. Ruel Johnson, who first raised the allegations levelled against Mr. Jackson, is a sitting director on the newspaper’s Board? Is it also a chance occurrence that the Chronicle carried an op-ed article penned by Mr. Johnson on December 6, 2017, titled, “On the school system, Predators and Society’s Good People,” in which he sought to forward what appears to be a malicious campaign against Mr. Jackson?
That the newspapers would, over a period of months, allow Mr. Johnson to leverage and prostitute state resources to meet his own narrow ends, without any formal sanctions, represents a serious case of mismanagement and ethical misconduct.
Both the management of the entity and Mr. Johnson should be made to give account for their despicable behaviour and misuse of state assets.
What is equally troubling is Mr. Johnson’s personal role in this entire affair. When he first reported the allegations against the teacher on his Facebook page, his claims were several and varied. The public was told that what he had reported was “worse” than the Boston Sex scandal; where there were more than one thousand reported cases of sexual abuse.
We were later informed by Mr. Johnson that what happened at The Bishops’ High School was in fact, “the biggest public school sexual predation story in the history of the Caribbean”, and “worse” than the Larry Nassar case. These outlandish claims would no doubt fall short of Mr. Johnson’s literary capacity to produce fictional characters and story lines.
Further, he suggested that there could well be more than one hundred victims of sexual assault and abuse, and that he had in his possession a dossier of thirty “documented cases”, all of which he submitted to the “relevant authorities”.
With the passage of time, it was revealed that the only reported case against Mr. Jackson was one made by a young woman with whom he shared a relationship for several years and with whom Mr. Johnson was involved.
We were also made to understand that Mr. Jackson and the young lady were friends just months prior and that it wasn’t until meeting Mr. Johnson that she was convinced that she was a victim of “sexual predation”.
Given that Mr. Johnson would seek to conceal these pertinent facts when he first brought this story to our collective attention, casts doubt about the authenticity of his claims and his motives for doing so.
Because of his vested interest in what is clearly a personal issue, Mr. Johnson has effectively brought his roles as Cultural Advisor to the Ministry of Social Cohesion and Director of the Guyana Chronicle into disrepute. He can no longer be trusted as an independent and unbiased public commentator in this matter.
Indeed, it is precisely because of Mr. Johnson’s erratic and senseless behaviour that private and public organisations have designed codes of conduct and social media policies for those under their employ. Social media outlets like Facebook have the potential to spread scandals, uncorroborated claims, and create PR nightmares, and if the entity isn’t careful, social media can end up hurting its reputation, damaging public trust.
Unfortunately, this has been the avoidable outcome of Mr. Johnson’s rants and cunning machinations.
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