“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
“Today I am free to begin anew. In springtime, all is made new. As buried bulbs push up through the ground, I behold the cycle of Life at work … I am happy, joyous, and free!” (Daily Word – April 17, 2014)
My last weekly column ended with the sentence “As the gentle trade winds blow, let the enlightened responses continue to flow”… and so they did.
(1) Caribbean Project Management and Sustainable Development Consultant, now resident in Canada: “I had to save this column. The things we need to do in the Caribbean are not rocket science. I have made the point to others about our over-governance in the Caribbean. I have also spoken about the need for the media to expose the political and other leaders. Columns like yours are part of the education needed by society to help folks force our leaders to make the necessary decisions and implement the appropriate policies to facilitate sustainable development of the Caribbean.”
(2) Caribbean media operative: “As the great voices of our times transpire one by one and take leave of the planet, Prof. Girvan (UWI, Mona), The Ancient One Iyah (Rastafari Spiritual Leader) from Jamaica and the former President and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Mr. A.N.R. Robinson; those who remain must fill the void. There is a call to action coming out of Jamaica for Jamaicans to rise in defense of the state encroaching on the rights of the people. Within the Caribbean there needs to be one voice for issues on justice, reduction of crime and free trade and movement. Nothing less is expected from a region that could have the clout and wealth of Malaysia or Singapore if we would just unify and follow your leadership, Basil. Media houses are to awaken to the clarion call throughout the region for conscious journalism and rebuttal to issues begging redress”.
The media practitioner continued: “CMEx (Caribbean Media Exchange) carried the baton for many years (since 2001), providing sustainable tourism leadership; a balanced voice; and fora to thrash out burning issues. The organization is headed by our most capable journalist, Bevan Springer. Basil please ask all the respondents to take a short questionnaire on CMEx and sign a statement to assist its revamping so that as a group we can ‘have the power to face’ the burning issues of the day for Caribbean peoples …Journalists must stand strong in the face of threats and oppression in our society to present the objective side of the news, show the people’s side of the story, as well as, the other sides. Let us join with journalists around the world to preserve our professional discipline by remaining awake and alert as ‘the eyes and ears’ of the people.”
(3) Old Harrisonian Scholar: “Happy Easter. Excellent topic. A pity you did not look at the causes of the malady. Yet the media houses will tell you, when questioned, that the majority of their staff graduated from the University of the West Indies – Cave Hill. You, no doubt, may hardly have the time to listen to ‘Down to Brasstacks’ (Barbadian Radio Call-In programme). English as we were taught at HC (Harrison College) often gets murdered.”
It was reported recently that the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) condemned in the strongest possible way continued attacks on members of the media.
MATT responded as follows:
“(1)…the freedom of the press must be jealously guarded and any attempt by any power to limit this freedom must be resisted by all right thinking people; (2) … it is duty of the media to report fairly and fearlessly on matters of public importance.; (3)… MATT stands resolutely in defence of media freedom and urges its members to continue to freely, accurately and fearlessly cover the news.”
I agreed with paragraphs (1) and (3) as stated by MATT but in para (2), I would have preferred the use of the word ‘comment’ rather than ‘report’. Report suggests being ‘reactive’ whereas comment gives the media a wider scope to be ‘proactive’. I sought professional advice only to be told by my adviser that journalists are indeed reporters and had no issues being described as such.
I continued to interrogate with the twin question: “Do you agree that the ideal role of the media in any given society is to inform the general public on events and issues that affect them? If journalists are reporters who report the news, is it the editors who are to go beyond being placidly reactive (reporting the news) and adopt the role of being aggressively proactive (offering opinion to the general public on events and issues that affect them)?”
The reply? “Semantics…an investigative report, for example, is provocative and goes beyond recounting the news of the day”.
My next question was: “Would you then say that investigative journalism in the Caribbean is weak?” The reply: “In some cases non-existent”. The dialogue ended, I was satisfied.
Further to my suggestion that The Private Sector Association of Barbados must take the lead and convene a media conference to share with the media what needs to be done and solicit their partnership, maybe the answer is, as is recommended above, to convene a CMEx event to deal with the issue of “Investigative Journalism”.
Maybe then we shall get “the patient (our governments) to start taking the medicine”.
Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.