Justice (rtd) Donald Trotman, who is leading the Commission of Inquiry into the 2008 Lindo Creek killings, on Thursday reprimanded the Guyana Times and its affiliate news site Inews for inaccurate reporting of the inquiry’s public hearings, while stating that he needed to “preserve the continuing integrity” of the commission.
Trotman, specifically referring to an article published by the entities on Wednesday documenting the testimony of retired police commissioner Seelall Persaud, called for those responsible for the reporting to publish a correction before the next hearing.
“What I want to do is to advise at this time these erring and errant reporters to take stock of their own professional integrity, to be reminded and to remind themselves that they belong to an honourable profession—as honourable as the profession to which I belong—and to uphold its principles and its morals as best as they could, regardless of who tells them to do otherwise,” Trotman said.
“If they do not on their own initiative do that, but allow themselves to be dictated to, or dictated by other persons or sources, then they would only bring disgrace upon themselves, their career, and upon this honourable profession of journalism,” he further advised.
Trotman, at the beginning of the public hearing a few weeks ago, had brought attention to what he referred to as “malicious reporting” by a section of the media, but had refrained from naming the media outlet.
On Thursday, however, Trotman related that he felt it necessary to do such at the time as the entity had once again engaged in inaccurate reporting, referencing Persaud’s testimony, which appeared in the newspaper’s March 14th edition, as well as on the news site.
“…It had been reported, among other things, that the witness…Commissioner of police Seelall emphatically maintains that the men—that is the men whose deaths are the subject of the inquiry—were executed by Fine Man,” Trotman related, holding up a copy of the newspaper.
He read the headline plastered across the front page, before adding that the same had been repeated on page 11.
“This commission has among its main purposes to find the truth of what happened. And the pursuit of that objective by the commission would not be helped by lies which seek to counter that truth and that objective,” Trotman stated.
“If the reporters who are responsible for these inaccuracies and falsities do not consider themselves honourable members of an honourable profession, I am sorry to say that they would have no place in the development of the democratic institution of the media and the freedom of information and the freedom of the press, which are fundamental to the maintenance of the democratic structure of any democratic society, which we are seeking to build,” the Commissioner asserted.
In addressing the issue, Trotman had noted that the commission has similar status and powers to the High Court and can issue penalties if need arise. He, therefore, advised that a correction be issued in a timely manner, while cautioning that otherwise, the commission would decide what appropriate measures should be taken within its powers.
An apology was included in the newspaper’s report on the hearing in its Friday edition.