Respect must be shown to the President

Dear Editor,

Regarding the libel lawsuit filed by President Jagdeo against KN columnist, Freddie Kissoon (SN news story Jul 13), I am not in favour of politicians suing media personnel. I believe in and support absolutely (but not to abuse others as Mr. Kissoon does) freedom of the press.  I think people should be free to say and write whatever they want especially against the government.  However, I cannot condone personal attacks in the media on people and name calling, especially against the President of the nation.  No one should disrespect the head of state regardless of how much you dislike him.  He must be addressed properly by his title.   Many people are not supportive of President Jagdeo but they respect him and the office.  Many commentators, including me, are critical of the President but we address him properly.

Also, I cannot support the publication of misleading, deceitful and untruthful statements.  That is against my academic training.  So the media has to be careful about what it prints. Several commentaries, especially those from Kissoon are inaccurate. Freddie has been repeatedly advised to write honestly by so many, including me, and not to deliberately pen statements that cannot be substantiated. I have travelled all over the globe and read newspapers in dozens of countries and am yet to see Freddie’s type of attacks against people, certainly not against a head of government.

Thus, it was not unexpected that President Jagdeo would take legal actions against him for calling the President names and making claims to bring the President and the government into disrepute without evidence.

The media is supposed to be fair and objective and should vet comments for accuracy, libel or personal attacks.  Unfortunately, Kaieteur News, though a very popular publication, has been deficient in its editing department especially when it comes to Kissoon’s columns.  The editors should have exercised oversight over Kissoon’s columns to comply with international editing standards.  The editing standards of SN should be emulated at KN; personal attacks are not seen in SN.

I think Freddie should tender an apology to His Excellency and the matter should be resolved outside of the courts.

In general, I am against libel actions, including one filed by Mr. Chris Ram against two media houses and their editors for making comments about him.  That matter should also be resolved with an apology.

I hope the President and Mr. Chris Ram will find it in their heart to forgive, and reach a “friendly” agreement and withdraw their libel proceedings if indeed they have merit.

In the meanwhile, I urge media personnel to continue their work with objectivity and fairness, as found in SN, and accord respect to the President regardless of party affiliation.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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