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Journalist fired over Facebook post

PORT OF SPAIN — World Indian Network Communications yesterday fired freelance reporter Darryl Heeralal over statements he made on Facebook regarding protest action in Sea Lots, Port of Spain, which were viewed as being racist.

After Heeralal was fired, the station’s general manager, Sunil Ramdeen, called on journalists to reconsider their use of social media in their capacities as private citizens.

Heeralal, who was a freelance reporter with WIN TV on Sunday posted as his Facebook “status” a remark that used a derogatory term for people of African origin and also incited violence against such people, as he criticised the Sea Lots community that has for the past two days staged protests and blocked the westbound lane of the Beetham Highway.

Many members of the community are outraged over the deaths Sunday of Hady Paul, 28, and her daughters, Akasha, eight and Shakira, seven, who were killed when a car, driven by an off-duty policeman, crashed into them while they were on the pavement.

Heeralal’s statement quickly went “viral” and a swell of disagreement ensued, including a war of words between political groups on the forum.

Individuals and activist groups demanded that Heeralal be disciplined and he was fired yesterday.

Heeralal issued an apology via the same forum later in the afternoon, saying:

“My statements can only be described as racist, insensitive, unfortunate, uncaring and crass. And for it I apologise, unreservedly, firstly to the people of Sea Lots, Beetham Gardens, Laventille, Maloney and also too all those who I offended by my racist and inappropriate statements.”

In a telephone interview, Ramdeen said the station was “saddened” by Heeralal’s actions and the event demonstrated the need for a review of the use of social media by workers in a field such as journalism.

“This is a serious issue,” Ramdeen said.

“We (journalists) don’t have the luxury of disassociating ourselves from ourselves as journalists. To make a statement on social or any media, you have to know what the repercussions will be.”

Ramdeen said social fora such as Facebook must be regarded as “the animal it has become” and speaking arbitrarily on such sound boards must be approached with caution. (Express)

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