7 May 2008

Something to note

Photo tells a thousand sorry words

Wednesday, May 7th 2008

Two daily newspapers on May 6 published the picture of a young woman being charged with the rape of a 17-year-old boy. She was of course held up for the photo op by a police officer in uniform.

The same two papers reported a police officer being charged with the rape of a US citizen. Coincidentally, not even the name of the police officer, an acting corporal, was ever mentioned. Was he acting when he performed his sorry role? Would his female colleagues rally around him because of their allegiance to the department or would they be divided along the lines of gender?

Isn't there some rule/law which stipulates that a rape suspect's name (not to mention photo) should not be published? If there isn't, then how do we explain the disparity? Is it a gender issue? If there isn't a rule/law about the issue, then why is it that the police officer was not being held up to the same level of humiliation that members of the general public face?

I have had the misfortune of observing the wanton recklessness of police officers for several years when charged with various forms of dotishness to be protected by their colleagues. They either are sneaked in and out through a back door or have their heads covered from the media etc.

What exactly does one's nationality have to do with being raped? Would it have been acceptable had it been one of our citizens? There seems to be this obsession with protecting foreigners at the expense of our own. For the last few carnivals we observed that they were reportedly "crime free." The few people who were stabbed during the Carnival period and died later were evidently not "Carnival-related.'' So Martin Joseph and Trevor Paul can smile and tell the world that our Carnival was incident-free. No foreigners were killed.

My guess is that Mr Trevor Paul would say that the woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time; his sorry excuses for any and everything that happens under his sorry watch. 

Vision 2020 here we come! As an addendum, may I humbly suggest that we all apply for US citizenship in order to protect us from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rudy Chato Paul, Sr


EDITOR'S NOTE: We received a number of telephone calls, yesterday, from people who asked some of the same questions posed by Paul. We are grateful for the interactive relationship forged between us and remain eager to answer their queries:

- The law prohibiting the naming of people accused of rape has since been amended and there is now no legal bar to naming them.

- The name of the police officer accused of raping the US citizen could not legally be published since at the time of publication he had not appeared in court.

- The rape of anybody in Trinidad and Tobago, citizen or not, is news as evidenced by the reports published over the years in the various newspapers. The additional information that the woman allegedly raped was a "US citizen" only added to the NEWsiness of the report since it is unusual for a US citizen to be raped in T&T.

- Additionally, there have been callers who felt that, in fairness, the picture of the police officer charged with rape should be on Page 1 - just as the woman suspect was. Our photographers will be doing their best to get his photograph even if, as has been the custom, his police colleagues WRONGLY tried to prevent it being taken. But getting the photograph is no guarantee that it will be used on Page 1 in the cause of perceived fairness. It may or may not but editors of daily newspapers have to make instant decisions on the basis of a number of factors. "Fairness'' may, indeed, be one but that is secondary to news value. What if on the day in question the picture of the rape suspect policeman comes up against the picture of Mr Manning and Dr Rowley sharing a baigan choka - the Prime Minister's favourite food?