It was predictable. It was ironic. It was predictably ironic. The Prime Minister’s mere whisper at the UNC’s Monday Night Forum for fair and balanced journalism was presented through screaming headlines of “rogue” elements in the media. But the actual address on Monday and the print headlines on Tuesday bore little, if no similitude or resemblance. In fact, the newspaper headlines which followed the PM’s address was a classic case of ‘contextomy’, defined as the selective excerpting of words from their original linguistic context which distorts the intended meaning. Or, quite simply quoting of context.
Ironically, the Prime Minister actually prefaced the issue by saying, “it should not be construed as an attack on the media” and “we want no war with the media”. She went on to speak about “taking the practice of reporting to newer heights” and of the “importance of the Fourth Estate” to the promotion of civilized democracy. The Prime Minister recognized the media’s role in educating and informing and linked that to our progress as an independent nation. All of these were headlines in themselves, but controversy won in the end, hence the predictability.
Such misleading headlines carve perceptions and if not debunked is accepted as the truth. Such distortions tend to make its way upstream with some assistance from the politicians. In the Senate yesterday Opposition Senator Terrence Deyalsingh is reported to have urged; “Don’t call media rogues”. Surely Senator Deyalsingh spoke within the context of the limited reported excerpts of the Prime Minister’s address.
In an earlier political dispensation and in the heat of intense industrial action, former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday had remarked “teachers who abandon their children are criminals”. The next day the headlines read, “Panday: Teachers are criminals”. Unfortunately, Mr. Panday’s very acute observation had lost its value through repetitive misrepresentation. It may be that the intention of the opponents of the present Prime Minister is the same today.
It is unfortunate that some other aspects of the Prime Minister’s address did not find its place in the mainstream media, having spoken at length on accountability and transparency as a pillar of the UNC, its manifesto and the philosophical guide of her Partnership Government. She reinforced the ideals presented two weeks ago by the nation’s President at his inauguration; that of discipline, tolerance and production.
But none of these appealed to the journalistic instincts of our media professionals who once again opted for sensationalism over truth and fairness.
Attorney at Law