"The highest accolade
a newspaper can achieve is credibility...it is essential that
they learn to trust your reporting. They must be convinced that
you are trying to report the news of the day fairly, to tell the
truth, that you have no private agenda."
de Caires, Editor-in-Chief of Stabroek News, Anthony
Sabga Essay Series No. 2*
get e-mails all the time from members of the Guyanese Diaspora
who tell me that they can't get their letters analyzing my articles
published in the Stabroek News...The Stabroek News
is certainly an entity that wants little to do with me. I usually
reply to those mails advising the letter-writers to complain to
the Guyana Press Association."
Kissoon, "You Can't Please Them All," Kaieteur News,
July 17, 2006.
"Tell the tale properly
and let people form their own opinion, never try to tell them
what to think. It is patronising and highly unprofessional."
David de Caires, November 2004, Trinidad speech to journalists.
"You have to be very
vigilant, don't read their newspaper if they are not going to
represent your views accurately because that is what they are."
—President Jagdeo in Albion, speaking out against Stabroek
News during Vote 2006 campaign, July 2006
The Editor-in-Chief of Stabroek News (SN),
Mr. David De Caires, once advised fellow media workers; “We
have to earn the trust of our readers and listeners, to convince
them that we have no private agenda…” However, scrutiny
of the print coverage of the riveting Roger Khan saga shows that
Stabroek compromised its journalism as it took a position
of aroused opposition against Mr. Khan, including specifically
worded news reports and censoring of letters to shape public opinion
against Khan, while protecting others such as Commissioner Felix
and Chief of Staff Edward Collins.
Ever since the first controversial “tape”
surfaced, almost every report mentioned the Good Hope Trio as
if Stabroek had evidence that Khan made these recordings.
Only because of the law has Stabroek not declared boldly
that Khan created the "tapes." Unlike other papers,
it absurdly ran its lead story (03/21) without a transcript or
substantial quotes/extracts, so as to prevent citizens from reading
what Mr. Felix said, allegedly.
But the second “tape” forced Stabroek
to provide a partial transcript (June 1), as the PNC responded
to part of its contents. Still determined to protect the commissioner,
Stabroek offered in addition, a summary of the transcript
(in Creole), as if we needed a translator to understand Creole.
And in its summary, Stabroek manipulated the dialogue to safeguard
Here is an example. Commissioner Felix allegedly
said; “But wha I gan do is call narcotics and leh deh put
drug pun she!” In translation, Stabroek wrote;
“A promise was then made to work on the issue immediately.”
The paper replaced incriminating words like “narcotics,”
“put,” and “drugs” with weak words such
as “promise,” “work,” and “issue”
and therefore reduced the seriousness of the allegation.
Since May 24, Stabroek began to publish
the security-oriented opinions of one Robert Gates, an investigator.
Despite the seriousness of the Khan story, and its implications
on national security, Stabroek did not solicit any second
or counter-opinion. Strangely, the Stabroek-Gates team
never provided security tips about the Buxton gangs.
When one reader (C. Urling, SN, 06/15) complained
that Stabroek was compromising its journalism to bring
the “scoop” on Khan, the paper lashed out saying that
Gates was credible. But time caught up with Stabroek
and Gates. On May 14, Gates predicted that “tapes”
featuring Minister Gail Teixeira would be released. He confidently
promised to “bring ball by ball commentary” on each.
For the records, no “tapes” have been released to
Interestingly, Stabroek, in haste to
make the news instead of bringing the news, had lied about Mr.
Gates, saying that he worked on a few “cases” with
a US-trained criminologist, when Gates merely took a few “courses”
with him. Gates was honest to note this error. Naturally, given
the embarrassment, Stabroek took a few days before admitting
its blunder, doing so as a mere “editor’s note”
to a letter instead of an obvious errata (correction) statement.
This is one example of journalism at Stabroek
being compromised. It happened again when Stabroek replaced
the original bearded picture of Khan with one of him in Surinam,
subdued and in handcuffs, as a permanent fixture for about two
weeks almost as if Stabroek wanted to humiliate Khan’s
family. If the paper wanted to reduce the mysterious, feared perception
of Khan, it achieved instead overkill that pointed to “private
agendas” and not ethical photo journalism.
A third example is linked to the Sash Sawh murder,
which many believed to have been done by the Buxton gangs. Of
course, some have tried to blame Roger Khan. Stabroek,
as if to shield the Buxton gangs and their political affiliates
from attention, tried to separate the murder from the Buxton gangs,
by seeing it as anything but an “assassination.” In
fact, it was the elder son of the late minister that objected
to what Stabroek tried to do in its follow-up report
(“What should have been joyous week for Sawhs to be spent
on reflection,” June 14) on the family.
Let us turn to young Sawh: “However, I
also hastened to mention that, of all the hypotheses, political
motivation seemed to be the most likely source. This part of my
conversation with the said reporter was, for reasons unbeknownst
to me, omitted” (Roger Kaviraj Sawh, SN, June 17).
Letters: Recently, Kaieteur News editorialized
that the Roger Khan saga was a “litmus test of the local
media’s commitment to fairness and balance” in journalism
(KN 06/30). Stabroek underperformed, failing the public
in order to satisfy a selected crowd. And it did so especially
with undue censorship, which has always been an invisible manner
by which Stabroek strategically manipulates the shaping
of public opinion according to positions taken by the paper.
Between late March and June (the Khan saga),
Stabroek censored letters that spoke favorably of Roger
Khan and/or the alleged “phantoms.” During this period,
Stabroek refused to publish 5 of 6 letters from me. In
one strange case, on April 19, Stabroek published someone’s
letter titled, “How could these weapons be missing since
2001?” But when I, on May 18th, submitted one titled, “Questions
for Chief of Staff Collins,” it was rejected outright.
I implore the public to verify what I write
herein; one is encouraged to examine especially letters from March
25-May 30, wherein one would discover the particular absence of
East Indians’ opinion on Roger Khan. In fact, using its
digital (online) archive, I believe about 14 letters were published
on Khan (out of at least some 200). Of these, 5 or so spoke favorable
of Khan; that is, 5 out of 200 on one of our most extraordinary
By tradition and in contrast, Stabroek
publishes opinions in favor of the Buxton gangs/“masterminds.”
The views of Mr. Tacuma Ogunseye, their unofficial spokesperson,
are not censored, although Stabroek is aware or strongly
suspect that these individuals are linked to murder, rape, sodomy,
kidnapping, exodus, arson, torture, and the advocacy of uprising
against East Indians, law enforcement figures, and the government.
It should not object to such letters, but be open to all views.
It should be noted by readers of Guyanese news
that Stabroek does not favor East Indian people or opinions
to be found amongst them; and I dare to say that the Khan saga
has without a doubt reflected this reality. There has not been
any East Indian columnist writing consistently and openly under
an East Indian name in Stabroek on political or social
issues such as crime, between Elections 2001 and Elections 2006.
East Indians cannot get an article into Stabroek
News that touches on politics and crime as someone like certain
WPA figures, including, strangely, those who are not truly WPA
stalwarts. In time, whether East Indians, not being able to find
their views or stories in this paper during critical moments (although
they may buy it or advertise in it), would take a stand against
Stabroek and its barbed-wire journalism, is yet to be
If there is a boycott of Stabroek News,
it would not be unreasonable. That said, I fear that print journalism
itself has broken the barriers, and is heading for the foothills.
The late Desmond Hoyte was right; no one can “out paper”
Note: *See "Journalism shows how personal and professional
integrity are crucial to the idea of excellence" from the
Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence Essay Series,
No. 2, July 2nd, 2006, Stabroek News. A shorter version
of this article was published in the Chronicle on July 29, 2006.]