Feb 27, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – On almost a daily basis, the evidence mounts that this country is going to hell in a hand basket and at express speed. The latest such development came from no less a figure than the Hon. Speaker of the House, Manzoor Nadir. This was what came from this senior referee in Guyana’s National Assembly: “Speaker cautions media against reporting on heckling in Parliament – says reporters open themselves to be sued” (KN February 25).
We chalk that up to the Speaker of the House being overwhelmed by embarrassing circumstances, and losing his bearings for a brief moment. The hope is that he will come to his senses quickly and set the record straight. For the way that we at this publication interpret what the Speaker’s position represents, as can be gathered from the thrusts of his words, is the equivalent of a not-so-subtle threat, an indirect gag order. Whatever it is, we wish to make this one thing very clear: as long as the facts and circumstances are in our corner, and bear us out, then we have no choice but to report the essence of what is involved to the Guyanese public. In fact, and as the Hon. Speaker should know very well, we have an obligation to do so.
Our obligation to share in the public domain what transpired in parliament is founded on, driven by, and protected by certain privileges. The privilege of reporting what the whole truth is in all of its fullness is conferred on this paper and all who are associated with it. The privilege that comes from presenting events with accuracy is something that no one and nothing can challenge; and the privilege for fair comment without degrading into malice is its protected right.
In addition to those privileges, we are sure that the Speaker knows, but we take the opportunity to remind him in case there was a temporary lapse, that public figures are not exempt from fair reporting, and never more than when they are engaged in the disposition of the public’s business.
It is our belief that what unfolded in parliament, and from the mouths of our elected representatives, our learned lawmakers, was close to what could be termed profane. It was and remains worth reporting, if only so that Guyanese can witness how their interests are being handled, how their tax dollars are honourably earned, or how it is wasted. It was worth reporting also with another purpose in mind. That is, to bring our parliamentarians to their senses, to alert them that they desecrated too many boundaries, that they went too far.
Because all of this was part of the public record, via available technological channels, then it is not something that is suppressible, as the horse has already raced out of the stable. There is nothing that is deniable. The facts are the facts, and they speak for themselves, which there was no need to embellish or tamper with to any degree, not even the slightest. We would have thought that the Speaker of the House, or any speaker with an interest in the maintenance of minimum standards and the decorum that comes from such, would have applauded the exposures that were reported. We say this for the simple reason that it makes his job more manageable, since members are put on notice that their every word and action is out in the open, and subject to every standard of fair reporting and fair comment.
If the Speaker is more interested in contributing to the pretense that all is well in parliament, and that spirited debate occurs in an atmosphere of respectability and dignity, then we cannot be a part of any such myth. If the Speaker wishes that the vulgar excesses of our parliamentarians were kept from the public, then he should consider holding closed-door sessions. It goes without saying that there would be challenges to any such development just as there would be challenges wherever it leads to anything related to lawsuits for libel. Not when we have truth standing firmly in our square.
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