Touria Prayag's Blog

Editorial: L’express Weekly, 4 June 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 4, 2010

Editorial

Basta!!!! Click to read L’express Weekly (PDF)

Until such time as robot-operated newspapers are invented, asking the press to be totally independent is asking its journalists to let go of their humanness. When it comes to expressing opinion, a degree of bias is inevitable in every position editors take, in every thought they express, in every word they lay on paper. This degree of bias in opinion does not absolve us of the responsibility of being fair, of tackling issues instead of criticizing personalities, of making sure that the information presented is objective.

The tug of war between the political leaders currently holding the levers of state power and La Sentinelle is most saddening. Accusing us of making mistakes is a criticism we are happy to accept, and learn from. Claiming that our opinion leaders have a political bias is something I am personally not prepared to refute. It is not out of character as human beings. But for a press group to be the mouthpiece of one particular party, which is what we are being accused of, all its editorialists should have a demonstrable affinity with that party. Can anyone who has been reading our editorials since the beginning of the campaign honestly look us straight in the eye and say that all our editors have expressed the same views and/or biases? Can anyone even suggest that we have written about the same issues?

While my colleague Raj Meetarbhan expressed his confidence that Pravind Jugnauth will do well as minister of finance because of his track record, my recollections did not give me the same comfort. While he, based on the information he was receiving from his journalists, was talking about a “close fight,” we were depicting Navin Ramgoolam as “the most popular politician in the country” and Darlmah Naeck was chastising Paul Bérenger for his “communalisme scientifique”. Rabin Bhujun and Gilbert Ahnee were dealing with totally different issues.

Jean-Claude de l’Estrac, the chairman of the board of La Sentinelle, has never denied his past or his present and his views were unequivocally expressed in his editorials. Apart from that, he was receiving the newspapers at the same time as our readers. Some of our views he may have liked, some he may not, but had he dictated what we should be writing about or how, we would all have dealt with the same issues in the same way at the same time.

Assuming all the criticism levelled against us is warranted, there are only two ways to keep us in check: our columns or our courts of law. Anyone who feels wronged can take legal action. And we did open our columns to our readers to express their views –uncensored. Some took the opportunity to vent all their anger at us. We have published their comments verbatim. That is the only legitimate way to fight back in a democracy. Not by ostracising journalists; not by cancelling a parent’s school invitation on the grounds that she is the editor-in-chief of a newspaper run by La Sentinelle and sending her child home in tears and incomprehension; not by withdrawing l’express from public libraries; not through boycott.  And certainly not by denying journalists access to government property at a very official ministerial press conference.

I think it is time to say “Basta!” Pravind Jugnauth has crossed the line. La Sentinelle is over 600 employees trying to make a living for their families by informing the public of matters of interest to them. Depriving them of information, quite apart from being a blatant violation of democracy – which is grave enough in itself – puts their livelihood at stake. This flies in the face of every democratic principle this country has fought for!

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