Let’s hope that neither the Suriname Embassy in Georgetown nor any of President Bouterse’s news-monitoring aides in Paramaribo regularly monitor NCN’s hourly news casts; if they do then Takuba Lodge may be the recipient of a terse diplomatic note protesting NCN’s recent reference to President Desi Bouterese as President Donald Ramotar’s “Dutch counterpart.”

Check it out NCN news moguls! That is how the 7:00 am news on Friday February 3rd described President Bouterse.

Now there are several problems here, NCN. First, in diplomatic terms it might well be offensive. While it is true that Suriname is a former colony of Holland and that our neighbour to the east is a Dutch-speaking country, (actually the term Dutch-speaking counterpart may have been OK) Suriname is an independent Republic and has been so for some time now; so that by no stretch of the imagination can President Bouterse be President Ramotar’s Dutch counterpart. He is our President’s Surinamese counterpart and Paramaribo would have every right to be offended if they so choose.

Okay, the faux pax may not be sufficient to merit the intervention of an International Tribunal in the Hague but if you follow relations between the two South American Republics you will find that Suriname can sometimes be a very testy neighbour. Suppose the news reports out of Paramaribo start referring to President Ramatar as President Bouterse’s British counterpart? Wouldn’t it be pretty much the same thing? And how would that go down with President Ramotar and his ‘anti-colonial’ colleagues?

More than that we might find that NCN’s chosen manner of describing President Bouterse may even give offence to the Netherlands. After all, relations between Holland and Mr Bouterse, personally, are not what one might call warm.

Another thing NCN: Now we understand only too well that your preoccupation with serving the wishes of the state can be distracting; that having been said, however, there are ways of infusing some measure of professionalism into the job. In other words, even if it’s propaganda it can be made to sound more palatable. After all the political Czars are not likely to come after you for getting basic things right. You could hire editors who at least understand the issues on which they are reporting and news readers who are required to pronounce the difficult names and places over and over again until they get them right. (There are actually professional methods of teaching news readers to pronounce names.)

For sheer theatre, few occurrences can match listening to NCN broadcasters struggling to pronounce the name of a Sri Lankan cricketer. Names like Paranavitana, Thirimanne, Warnapura and Kapugedera usually create all sorts of mayhem in the NCN studios. The problem, it seems, is that the manner in which NCN does its news-reading means that the readers are only confronted with these tongue-twisters at the very moment when they are required to pronounce them on air. At least that’s how it sounds. It’s difficult to resist a chuckle when the news reader, having taken two or three shots at pronouncing the name of a Sri Lankan cricketer, simply abandons the ordeal and moves on. Not good for professionalism but what else can the poor and mostly inexperienced news readers do?



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