by Rakesh Rampertab

Together, 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.

Is 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,” Only my name has been included. The paper refuses to acknowledge me as the legitimate “editor” of a legitimate website.

Or, 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 Bermuda, is allowed to sign as follows: “Keith A. Forbes, Editor, Bermuda online at”   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 paper.

The Chronicle is the Most Suppressive Major News Organ 

The 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.

When 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.

Of 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 remain vital.X                                                                        Page X>>>                       
Aug 25 , 2002
© 2001