Thursday, July 31, 2008
BBC and Guyana - both sides now
A week passes very quickly when you have an annual budget of more than £3.9 billion ($7.8b) to burn. After a reprimand for taking commercial sponsorship and a £400,000 fine for "unfair conduct of viewer and listener competitions" the BBC turned its attentions yesterday to telling us what a jolly nice country Guyana (seen in my header photo) is. Lost Land of the Jaguar is a three part extravaganza of prime time TV which the BBC website tells us "combines stunning wildlife with high octane adventure".
During the one hour first episode the script managed to namecheck the Guyanese president a few times and take a swipe at the British government for being slow to respond to a proposed Guyanese deal on carbon credits. Lost Land of the Jaguar comes from the BBC's Science and Nature division but for an educational programme a surprising amount was left untold. There was no mention that the interior of Guyana, which featured so prominently in the programme, is a center of trafficking of men, women, and children for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor, nor that Guyana is on the U.S. Department of State's Tier 2 Watch List for failing to provide evidence of its efforts to combat human trafficking. The country's increasing involvement in the drugs trade and money-laundering was also overlooked as was the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Guyana and can carry a sentence of life imprisonment. Amnesty International's concerns over the lack of witness protection also missed the cut as did concerns over increasing curbs on the country's media.
But the Lost Land of the Jaguar did find time to tell us how few tourists there are in Guyana. Hardly surprising considering this travel advisory currently on the UK government's Foreigh Office's website: 'Crime levels in Guyana are high. There are frequent indiscriminate shootings and armed robberies. There are regular armed attacks against businesses and individuals where the perpetrators often use extreme violence. Since January 2008 there has been an upsurge in violent criminal activity. An army patrol was ambushed in Buxton (East Coast Demerara) on 23 January 2008. The police headquarters in Georgetown was attacked on 25 January and 11 people were shot and killed in house raids in the village of Lusignan (East Coast Demerara) on 26 January. A further attack on the town of Bartica (Essequibo River) on 16 February resulted in the deaths of three policemen and 10 civilians. Further attacks elsewhere in the country cannot be ruled out. While the situation persists, and the perpetrators remain at large, you are also advised to exercise caution when travelling in Guyana.'
Have a nice visit. And before anyone accuses me of being anti-BBC or anti-Guyana take another look at my header photo. It was taken in the 'unexplored' interior of Guyana but is not a still from the Lost Land of the Jaguar. I took the photo more than thirty years ago while I was exploring that extraordinary country with my Guyanese born wife. And remember who broke the story of the Berlin Philharmonic's first Black conductor.
Header photo (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk