Bar association calls on President to dissociate himself from racist editorial in Chronicle
Posted By Stabroek editor On July 19, 2014 In Local News
The Guyana Bar Association today called on President Donald Ramotar to dissociate himself from a racist editorial in the July 16 edition of the state-owned Guyana Chronicle and other such content carried by the newspaper. The bar association also called on the President – who is the Minister of Information – to take disciplinary action against those responsible for the publications as to do otherwise would be an endorsement of those sentiments.
Observers say that factions of the government have control over the editorial line of the Chronicle and are using it in an attempt to stir up racial animosity for political purposes. The bar association statement follows.
STATEMENT BY THE GUYANA BAR ASSOCIATION
The apparatus of the State, including the State media should not be used to promote racial hatred and this abuse should stop immediately. The Guyana Bar Association as part of its mandate to promote the rule of law is compelled to point out that such publications are also unlawful. In the recent days a letter to the editor and an editorial published in the Guyana Chronicle appear to be inciting racial hatred and perpetuating a stereotype of young Guyanese of a particular ethnicity as criminals. We find this offensive, as racism in any form is reprehensible. In the letter by Ted King, "Blue Caps is new arm of PNC" appearing on July 15, 2014 the writer says, inter alia:
Check the stats on which ethnic crowd is doing the criminal acts; on which ethnic crowd, mostly. One section of the community works very hard and saves its money for a better future for self and family, but it appears it is working to save the money for criminals,who just come in with guns and take it all. If you are not safe in your own home, then where else can you be safe? They see blood, they smell blood, then they are moving in for the kill now, because they know they have the backing of the USA. It is too late now for the PPP to go after terrorists, because all the reports will reach the USA about extrajudicial killings and racism. PPP supporters will protest the best way they know how, and that is to continue to move out of Guyana with their loved ones. It is like how the whites in America riot: They just pack their traps and move, leaving it all to the criminal elements in their neighbourhoods, because if they defend themselves they are labelled racists.
The letter is factually misguided in ever respect and racist. On 16th July 2014, the editorial "Youth, Politics and criminality" covers similar territory, perhaps more political but equally racist. The Racial Hostility Act, Cap 23:01 provides in section 2(1):
“A person shall be guilty of an offence if he willfully excites or attempts to excite hostility or ill-will against any section of the public or against any person on the grounds of their or his race – by, (various public means) or by means of written (including printed) matter or pictorial matter published by him."
This Act was amended in 2002 to provide for punishment on summary conviction of a fine of five hundred thousand dollars and to imprisonment for seven years. Section 2(4) also provides that the proprietor, printer, publisher or editor of any newspaper, or the printer of any other printed document, in which any particular matter has been published, shall be presumed himself to have so published that matter unless he proves that such publication was made without his authority, consent or knowledge and did not arise from want of due care on his part. The right of all sections of the Guyanese people to be free from racial hatred is also enshrined in the Guyana Constitution which imbues the State with a responsibility to encourage people of all races to live in harmony and peace. This is set out in the preamble. The fundamental rights and freedom provisions which enshrines the freedom of expression (Article 146(3)) expressly excludes from protection as free speech, hate speeches or other expressions in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility or ill-will against any person or class of persons. Article 160(A) of the Constitution also provides that “All persons, institutions and political parties are prohibited from taking any action or advancing, disseminating or communicating any idea which may result in racial or ethnic division among the people."
The Guyana Chronicle’s failure to prevent such letters from being published, as well as explicitly encouraging such statements in its editorial suggests a dangerous, unlawful and offensive state of affairs. This matter cannot be easily brushed aside. At a time when our major political parties have an obligation to continue to reach beyond ethnic differences, these publications seek to empower the minority of Guyanese who practice racism and strengthen the latent racists among us.
His Excellency, President Donald Ramotar has ministerial responsibility for the Guyana National Newspaper Limited. If his disagrees with these reprehensible views, he must quickly and publicly disassociate the Government and himself from them. He should take disciplinary action
against those responsible for the publications; to do otherwise would be an endorsement of those sentiments.
Dated 19th July 2014
Guyana Bar Association & the following Attorneys-at-law:
Ronald G. Burch-Smith
C. M. Llewellyn John
Robin Stoby, S.C.
Mark A. Waldron