…sees ethnic lobby to push him out
EXECUTIVE member of the Working People’s Alliance and political scientist, Dr. David Hinds has pulled his column from the Kaieteur News, citing a suppression of his views and an ethnic lobby to push him out.
His decision comes days after another columnist, Trade Unionist, Lincoln Lewis also pulled his column citing the same problems. In a letter to Publisher of the newspaper, Glenn Lall, Hinds wrote that “in March 2018, you opened your newspaper to my weekly column after it was discontinued by the Guyana Chronicle. I was grateful for that bighearted gesture. In the two years since I have enjoyed a cordial relationship with you and the staff I worked with. I never sensed that I was being censored even when you from time to time expressed disagreement with the views expressed in some of the columns. That for me is the pinnacle of free speech. However, I always knew that a columnist serves at the pleasure of the owner-publisher. I was equally clear that my independence of thought would not forever sit well in our fragile political environment. So, it was not surprising that as the recent election season heated up and Kaieteur News’ evident partisan slant was manifested, that my opinions would not be in sync with that new thrust,” Hinds told Lall.
He added: “Soon, some of my columns were being rejected as not being in line with the newspaper’s reportage.” I took that to mean that the columns were inconsistent with Kaieteur News’ partisan stance. I initially decided to immediately part company but yielded to other instincts. However, with each passing week, it became more and more difficult to write in what was clearly an environment of censorship. I could no longer be critical of the PPP or express views uncritical of the Coalition. I could not write about the electoral developments in a full-throated manner. Apart from being prevented from free expression in my column, Kaieteur News reporters no longer contacted me for comments. I was being directly and indirectly muzzled.”
Hinds said: “As an independent thinker, censorship is inimical to my political values. I cannot function in such circumstances. So, I have reached that point; I have to leave. I do so aware that I gave it my all and, in the process, I have not violated cardinal principles or did anything to attract libel to the paper. I am however aware that there has been an ethnic lobby to have my column removed. Hence, I decided to no longer wait to be pushed out. I am walking away with my dignity which means a lot to me especially at this Emancipation moment. Those who have led the lobby have won.”
“To you Glenn I say thanks for letting me into your “home.” To your thousands of readers who looked forward to my column, I also give thanks. To those who felt and feel that for ethno-political reasons I do not belong at Kaieteur News, I understand the origins of your feelings. These are serious political times for our country, and I appreciate that partisanship has replaced objectivity in much of the media and the wider society. I think Guyana is poorer for it. But the logic of our politics has backed us into a tempest. I continue to wish you and Kaieteur News well and look forward to a return to a state of political independence when the tempest recedes.
As for me, I will continue to express my opinions in the open space. The times ahead are likely to be more than Guyana deserves. I hope that I am made a liar. But I will not put my voice up for sale. Nor will I be silenced. From Buxton Bottom Station to the frontline of the struggles of my time to places not made for my type, I remain unbought. What flows from my pen is shaped by what I see and feel,” Dr. Hinds said.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Lewis stated that from henceforth, his weekly column will be published on his Facebook page for re-publishing by newspapers if they opt to do so. Lewis’ “Eye on Guyana” was first taken up by Kaieteur News in 2018. “I am no longer, in good conscience to my pride, dignity, beliefs in free speech, freedoms and love of Guyana able to continue the “Eye on Guyana” column in Kaieteur News,” Lewis stated, adding: “I find it difficult to satisfy this obligation with the censorship imposed that contradicts the principles that I have fought for all my adult life; principles that dictate the fundamentals of right and wrong, good and bad, evil and righteous. Unfortunately, we are witnessing situations where right is wrong, and wrong is right, depending on who says what to whom, when, where and how. Laws are no longer given preeminence, and those who disagree revel in being disagreeable. The environment has become toxic, strained and too polarised.”
Lewis said that making the decision was not easy, as it comes at a time when he believes that his voice is most important to Guyana. However, he said that he has watched the Kaieteur News, in recent times, “evolve from being at the pinnacle of media diversity, to one that is more partisan- aligned with an apparent strangulation on said (diverse) views.”
He stated plainly: “I can no longer be comfortable in an environment where such public acrimony is being encouraged. The principle of free speech is not only being transgressed, but being used to promote falsity, justify linguistic dehumanisation of some by some, hate and intolerance, not to build bridges. Having dedicated my public life to the fight of upholding universally acceptable principles, Rights and the Rule of Law, I cannot sacrifice the pursuit of same, even in these trying times when some are being rendered voiceless.” In parting ways with newspaper, Lewis wished its Publisher, Glen Lall, all the best, and expressed his hope that the newspaper would successfully embark on a pathway towards balance and mainstream journalistic standards. He also expressed appreciation for the working relationship he shared with staff there with whom he has interacted over the years.