the letter columns of Guyana’s
two primary dailies, the Stabroek New and the Guyana Chronicle,
are the most important part of our print journalism. These columns amount to that
single space in which a variety of complex issues are being debated as they evolve.
It is where the leaders and followers meet, the idiot and the scholar discourse,
and the government and opposition combat. Here, the discussion panel, dirty street,
sponsored open forum, parliament, civilized home, houses of God, law enforcement
organs, and supporters of the corrupt and criminal all congregate simultaneously.
We ought to be grateful in some fashion.
Stabroek News against Strong Indian Opinions?
Stabroek News is, by
far, the more lenient of the two papers, allowing any opinion that is considered
of at least some social value, that is neither racist
nor derogatory, or suspiciously discreditable, publication. Of course, this does
not mean that it is not guilty of unreasonable suppression, or an adherence to
its own set of ethics that may lead to a denial of publication. For example, I
have sent numerous letters signed, “Rakesh Rampertab, Editor, www.guyanaundersiege.com.”
Only my name has been included. The paper refuses to acknowledge me as the legitimate
“editor” of a legitimate website.
once can argue that it has refused to grant me free publicity. I accept this explanation.
Yet, it is disheartening to find others being allowed this publicity. For example,
on August 25, 2002, one Keith A. Forbes, editor of website based in
is allowed to sign as follows: “Keith A. Forbes, Editor, Bermuda online
What can one do except lament like Shakespeare; “Fair is four and foul is fair.”
Or write as I do herein.
In November of 2001, I wrote a
letter about the effects of suppression and how deadly national ignorance can
be when we are ignorant of our history. I mentioned the obscure Wismar race-oriented
massacre as an example of people refusing to make public, what exactly happened—and
that this quietude was bad in itself because it leaves us more vulnerable for
such a tragedy to re-occur. The paper believes that we should not “dig up” the
past. But one cannot guard against something one does not know about. This is
why so many of the problems we have today, are actually
being repeated. Ignorance has allowed the Guyanese to exist open to easily repeated
errors. Stabroek News is, despite its high level of tolerance, not always
willing to encourage strong Indian-opinions. Indian letter writers have often
accused it of this.
Its columnists and
writers have always been, traditionally, Blacks. Indians are sparely interviewed
by its reporters on day-to-day issues for, say, its “What the people
says” column. It is a rarity to find the opinion of an Indian woman in
this section. Stabroek News once claimed (when accused of bias) that Indian
women are usually reluctant to speak on camera, so they avoid asking them. When
I sent a letter noting that in such a case, an Indian male should be interviewed
instead, the letter was not published. All of this is in line with a general
feeling within the leadership of Stabroek News that if the Chronicle
is sympathetic towards Indians, their paper ought to be more
Black leaning. During November and December 2001, I had five letters denied
publication successively at the Stabroek News. It sounds incredible—it
is the truth. Ever since, with a few exceptions, I have not sent anything to that
is the Most Suppressive Major News Organ
Chronicle is a story in blatant suppression of the phrase, “right to free
expression.” The paper is less state-owned and more party-oriented. That is, it
is PPP-oriented and thus, rejects all views that is anti-government.
Here, we are one step from the most extreme form of censorship—imprisonment, torture,
and death for writers. Ironically, some of the leading complainers against suppression
when this same Chronicle operated under the PNC, now heads the paper—a
classic case of abused turn abuser.
a newspaper is owned by a state, it is a terrible thing. This makes it automatically
that property of the ruling party; in the PNC days, the Chronicle spilled
out PNC propaganda; today, it does the same job—for the people at Freedom House.
Thus, unlike with Stabroek News, most Guyanese cannot get publication in
the Chronicle, unless they write in favor of the PPP/C or in condemnation
of the PNC/R. Automatically, the Black community, which aligns with the PNC/R,
will not find its opinions here. Naturally, the Black reader, not finding his
views in the paper, has opted to boycott it. Despite the fact that Indians are
the supporters of the PPP, and a belief that they are regarded warmly by the PPP-Chronicle,
they too will be refused if they voice anti-PPP criticism. Many letter writers
who have their letters published in Stabroek News but rejected by the Chronicle
can attest to this.
course, writers have to compete for the limited space that is already reserved
for the list of PPP advocates and apologists (real and fictional names) who appear
in the paper daily. This, in itself, is another way of suppressing newness. Readers
who only read the Chronicle is at a severe disadvantage, for the news they
receive is often short-handed or biased—if the government has made serious errors—the
reader will remain oblivious. This leaves the PPP-supporter and reader of the
Chronicle trapped in ill information. It is very important that people
who read the Chronicle also read other papers.
On the other hand, one argument
to supposedly and reluctantly justify this heavy suppression at the Chronicle,
is that this paper needs to present primarily pro-PPP/C views to achieve a kind
of equilibrium—to offer a different spin on an issue, be it truthful or not, from
the overload of anti-PPP views (of Opposition and general public) expressed in
other news organs. Of course, this is sheer propaganda and only serves to alienate
people more from the ruling party.
Any kind of writing,
which operates under the guise of propaganda, is dangerous—more so to the people it pretends to protect/represent
than the considered adversaries. The periodicals, advertisement, and movies made
and promoted by Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, played a significant role in the misguidance of the
German people. The effects of German propaganda nearly destroyed much of the German
culture, language, and literature that flourished before Bismarck and Hitler.
It is from the “rubble” left behind from WWII that German writers like Gunter
Grass (Noble Prize-winning author of Tin Drum, etc.), emerged with their
“rubble literature” and such likes, in an attempt at redemption—a cleansing process
of negative words, phrases, ideas, images, symbols, etc., from what was hallmark
Nazism.Guyana is in desperate
need for redemption. Guyana needs to be cleaned of all the ridiculous, immature
rules and stereotypes that keep Guyanese confined, second-rated, and ignorant
to the point that they are either corrupt or comic or both. We need more mainstream
newspapers in Guyana to compete
with the major two, forcing each, especially the intolerable Chronicle,
to be more democratic in their journalism. The newspaper is the most suitable
place to begin a redemption process—and for this reason, liberal letter columns