‘There are rules governing print journalism’

Dear Editor,

I have been following the cartoon controversy very closely in your newspaper and I am compelled to use my pen to highlight one important journalistic perspective, that seems to be missing in all the letters and comments about the cartoon and the IAC.

May I remind the Stabroek News team that there are rules governing print journalism and reporting in general that ought to be followed by leading news agencies like themselves.  Everyone who reports must do so in keeping with certain ethical principles without treading on people’s culture and heritage. My aim today is to merely educate the officials at Stabroek News that the public is looking on.

I quote from Wikipedia online: “Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by professional journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their code of ethics or the canons of journalism.”

I have also noted that the Stabroek News appears to be hiding behind the cloud of freedom of speech to assert that they did no wrong by publishing a cartoon that has caused much pain to the Indo-Guyanese populace that exists both here and overseas.

Tony Burman, former Editor-in-Chief of CBC News, said, “Every news organization has only its credibility and reputation to rely on.”

This is something all newspapers have to live by, since it is the general public which will judge ultimately and not a particular organization, the quality of the newspaper of the news organization. We tend to forget this major fact that it is the people of a community, village, region and country who ultimately make the difference by purchasing a newspaper, without which they cannot operate. Any newspaper needs sales and it is the people who provide the sales by purchasing. We all have to acknowledge the economics involved even if we do not want to.

“While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and public accountability. Like many broader ethical systems, journalism ethics includes the principle of Limitation to harm.”

Stabroek News, please take note of the foregoing points that were highlighted and be sure that the Guyanese people will be united in their stance to fend off instigators. The cartoon published in your newspaper had its effect on the people of Guyana.

The Stabroek News acted irresponsibly by publishing such a disturbing cartoon, maybe without thinking it would attract so much attention. It has attracted the attention of all and sundry and the IAC has taken up the mantle to fight for the rights of the displeased Indian community, which they represent.

As Guyanese we are a people who strive to be strong and united, and we have learnt through the years to live as one and to be tolerant of each other’s cultural mix, so the last thing we need is someone mixing war paint. I am sure the editors of Stabroek News know the destruction irresponsible journalism can cause, and what the printing of a book, publishing of an article or cartoons can do to a media house; after all, they are learned.

Yours faithfully,
Jagdish P. Sukhu

Editor’s note
Contrary to what Mr Sukhu suggests, the Stabroek News has not laid out its full position in defence of the cartoon in its columns, because the matter was put in the hands of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) after the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) complained to that body. At this point as far as the public domain is concerned, therefore, we have not been “hiding behind the cloud of freedom of speech,” since we have had nothing to say except to reject the IAC’s claim.

Whatever case we may have made to the ERC is currently embargoed until they pronounce on the issue. For the moment we will confine ourselves to repeating what we said on June 21, namely, “Stabroek News Editor Anand Persaud said the newspaper completely rejected the IAC’s assertion.”

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