Three reporters resigned from Guyana Times/Evening News on Tuesday, saying they would no longer be forced to read ‘reports’ about Kaieteur News publisher Glenn Lall in violation of journalistic principles and ethics and cultivation of fear for their own safety.
They are television news anchor Leanna Bradshaw, Sabatini Daniels & Whitney Persaud. They said in a joint statement that their move was driven by their refusal to become embroiled in the personal rhetoric between Guyana Times’ Dr. Ranjisinghi “Bobby” Ramroop and Lall.
“They contend that implicating reporters in the personal vendetta, as is evident, is threatening their personal lives and character,” said the reporters.
Guyana Times Editor Nigel Williams issued a statement shortly after, saying that Bradshaw had feared for her safety in light of a recent series of explosive investigative articles and reports carried by the newspaper and the Evening News about Lall. Williams said two other female reporters resigned apparently in sympathy for their colleague’s fear.
Both sides chronicled not too dissimilar accounts of what led to the resignations.
The reporters stated Bradshaw, who was instructed to read the articles, respectfully declined but was told in the newsroom’s general morning muster on Tuesday by Daniel Singh, who is the General Manager, that once reporters are employed by the entity, they must follow instructions given or “they can pack their traps and leave, the door is there”.
According to the reporters’ statement, by refusing to comply to read such stories, Singh then made it clear that by this, Bradshaw was indirectly tendering her resignation.
“She thereby felt this was her cue to leave, given that the company cannot compromise on such reasonable grounds.
Her two colleagues then stood by her and for what they believed in as well, and also tendered their resignation letters, least they be placed in the same position subsequently,” their statement added. They said the tit-for-tat between Lall and Ranjisinghi was violating journalistic ethics and training at the University of Guyana Centre for Communication Studies.
The Guyana Times Editor, for his company’s part, recalled that on Sunday, the reporter had initially met with an editor and explained that she had serious fear and reservations reading a story about Lall on television, as she believed she could be identified and targeted, being one of the news anchors for the television station’s newscast.
Williams said later that afternoon, when the reporter was told to read the story, she demurred and subsequently without the knowledge and approval of the editor, proceeded to excise the story about Lall from the newscast for the Sunday Evening News. “I am of the view that reading such articles puts my life at risk, as persons can associate the content with me, contrary to the newspaper reports where no by-lines are given or faces shown,” Bradshaw said in an email communication to the editor.
Williams claimed that Bradshaw told her editor that she was willing to voice the script once her face was not shown on television. “This was confirmed by one of her colleagues who quit in sympathy. Bradshaw’s stance showed she had no substantive problem with the script, but reacted out of fear,” he said.
The management of Guyana Times/Television Guyana, he said, regretted the decision taken by the reporters and wished them well for the future. “It is indeed a sad day when journalists have to operate in fear of certain personalities because they dare to investigate them and make public their findings,” Guyana Times/Television Guyana (TVG)/ Radio Guyana Inc General Manager Daniel Singh said.
“Journalists ought to be able to do their jobs without any fear of consequences at the hands of those whom they publish stories about,” he added. “I take this opportunity to wish them well and thank them for their services to Guyana Times/Television Guyana.”
Singh added that, even after her complaints, one of the editors of the media group met with Bradshaw and assured her of the company’s support as well as for other staff members who feel threatened. The editor also held similar discussions with all three of the reporters, minutes before they left the office, following their resignations. “Journalists ought to be able to do their jobs without any fear of consequences at the hands of those whom they publish stories about,” Singh stressed. The management of Guyana Times/TVG/ Radio Guyana is in the process of bolstering security for its staff in view of this recent development.
Lall and then President Bharrat Jagdeo had been friends until the sale of Sanata Textiles complex to Queens Atlantic Inc in which Ranjisinghi, now a very close friend of Jagdeo, is a major player. Jagdeo in the run-up to the 2011 general election had viciously attacked Lall who had targeted the then Head of State in the Kaieteur News columns. Guyana Times is considered pro-government in some quarters. Neil Marks was one of the first Guyana Times reporters to have parted company with that publication after management and a senior politician at the time had been angered by that journalist’s article on on an aspect of Carifesta.