SN caption on letter ‘distorted’ its intent

Dear Editor,

It is amazing to see the length and breadth of mischievousness some media houses practise.

Dr Prem Misir’s letter was carried by the following newspapers: Kaieteur News, Stabroek News and the Guyana Chronicle with the title ‘Integrity Commission in the throes of institution-building’ with the intent of addressing the issue of ‘institution building’ for the Integrity Commission.  Dr Prem Misir in his letter stated that “regardless of where the commission is with respect to institution-building, the relevant personnel must comply with the law.”

The intent of the letter was to indicate that there should be compliance with the law, notwithstanding some minor teething difficulties with the commission; and that the court has not yet made a ruling on Corbin’s court action, in which case compliance with the law is imperative. This to my mind was Dr Misir’s thrust in his letter. But Stabroek News’s new caption screwed up the message of Dr Misir’s letter.

However, Stabroek News deliberately twisted the major thrust of the title from ‘Integrity Commission in the throes of institution-building,’ to a new title ‘The Integrity Commission has a functioning secretariat and there can be statutory meetings with or without a chairperson,’ diverting the true idea of the letter.

This demonstrates the level of irresponsibility of some privately owned print media and the deliberate attempt to spark havoc among people, and more intrinsically, the reconstructed caption, in my mind, destroys the intent of the letter.

The responsibilities of the media should aim in the direction to assist people to make the right decisions and to support the principles of democracy; and not be used to achieve their own selfish political agenda.

The media plays an active role in influencing and shaping public opinion, and when the media deliberately distorts any information, they simply undermine the fundamental trust which people will have in them and this in turn lowers the bar for their journalistic integrity.  Stabroek News needs to think about those who would be adversely affected by their misrepresentation. Such an act will not only affect the credibility of the journalists, but also the credibility of Stabroek News.   I can only hope that in future, such acts by journalists of the Stabroek News will soon grind to a halt.

Yours faithfully,
Elizabeth Daly

Editor’s note

Firstly, newspapers all over the world reserve the right to caption letters and do not automatically accept titles appended by signatories.

Secondly, if, as Ms Daly says, the intent of Dr Misir’s letter was “to indicate that there should be compliance with the law, notwithstanding some minor teething difficulties with the commission; and that the court has not yet made a ruling on Corbin’s court action, in which case, compliance with the law is imperative,” then Dr Misir’s chosen caption did not reflect the “thrust” of his argument.

Thirdly, the caption which Stabroek News chose echoed Dr Misir’s own words in the first paragraph of the letter, emphasizing that the commission was a fully functioning institution, viz: “The Integrity Commission exists with a functioning secretariat. And the commission can have statutory meetings with or without a chairperson…” It is difficult to understand how the title of the letter, therefore, could be a distortion, let alone a reflection of some “selfish political agenda.”

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