SN should make a decision on Bisram

Dear Editor,

I write in relation to correspondence by M Maxwell (KN,  August 15 and SN, August 16) with very similar titles requesting both papers to desist from publishing polls claimed to have been done by Mr Vishnu Bisram. My letter is specifically directed to the editor of the Stabroek News.

For more twelve years now, Mr Bisram has claimed to be a pollster with a New York based organization named NACTA that employs him to carry surveys around the world. For the same period, Mr Bisram claimed to be a full-time high school teacher in New York. Before 2009, Mr Bisram succeeded in getting his phantom polls published in both independent dailies as news items. The game had to come to an end. There was no evidence to prove that this man does field work in Guyana, an organization named NACTA existed and that Mr Bisram was a full-time teacher in a high school in New York.

The result of the end of the game was that Bisram was forced to send, since 2009, his phantom poll results as letters to the editors. It is virtually impossible for the editors not to carry people’s letters. Once their opinions are not libelous and obscene and based on absolute fictional dates and places, then their views ought to be printed.

The SN and KN carry weekly letters, for years now by a school of constant writers. The names Mervin and Maxwell are well known. So is Bisram. But Bisram’s poll letters raise important principles in journalism that the Stabroek News must reflect on. Mr Bisram’s latest phantom poll was not carried in the letter pages of KN, only in SN. Two letters by Bisram on his survey results were published by SN, one of which made the lead letter in one of the Sunday editions

How does Mr Bisram differ from Mervin, Maxwell and others? Messrs Mervin and Maxwell  are mere commentators offering an opinion on something. This is not what Vishnu Bisram is doing. He is telling the editors that he has an organization and a form of employment which cannot be ascertained, which is manifestly false. For that reason, the editor through the principle of authentic journalism has to edit out the fictional parts.

A simple example will suffice. Would the Stabroek News continue to publish letters by a surgeon who boasts of how many by-pass operations he had done at Divine Hospital on Young Street in Kingston? Once it was ascertained that he is not a surgeon and there is no Devine Hospital, then the principles of journalism come in and even if the fictional surgeon writes a letter and signs as a surgeon, that must be edited out.

The Kaieteur News has left Mr Bisram’s masquerade. It did not carry his letters about his recent political survey. But since then KN has published more than a dozen other missives by Mr Bisram. Those missives were his opinions on matters arising in Guyana. They had a right to be printed. It is time Stabroek does the same in relation to these fictional polls. Mr Bisram is just laughing at the newspapers. I brought up the Bisram fictional poll fiasco with my organization, the Guyana Press Association and I will raise the matter again at its next general meeting. Should a newspaper continue to publish letters from a citizen about where he works and his type of operations when they are palpably untrue?

There is no organization in the world named NACTA that does surveys around the world. Mr Bisram is not a full-time teacher in any high school in New York. Now it is not for me to prove that. I have to prove who I say I am. I live in Turkeyen and work at the University of Guyana. SN and KN know that. Mr Bisram is going to reply to this letter. The KN and SN editors are going to read it. Nowhere will Mr Bisram offer proof of his employment and the existence of NACTA. And this has been going on for eight years now. Not eight months but eight years. Mr Bisram is just laughing at Guyanese journalism.

If Mr Bisram claims that he is a professional pollster with NACTA and is employed as a high school teacher in New York, then surely SN is resourceful enough to track that information down. If it is not interested then that is fine. But where does that leave the principles of journalism in that a citizen continues to publicly publish information about his status that cannot be verified. Stabroek News needs to make a decision on the Bisram charade. Any self-respecting media house would.

Yours faithfully,
Frederick Kissoon

Editor’s note

This newspaper had been associated with two previous polls undertaken by Mr Bisram because we considered that he conducted genuine surveys. We have no association with him now, and no longer carry his findings in our news columns. However, on the assumption that he has undertaken actual polling work here, we have allowed his results to appear in the letters column, provided his conclusions are derived from figures which he supplies, including the size of the sample, its breakdown and the sampling error. Nevertheless, this is not an indication of our endorsement.