Now that the dust has started to settle with respect to the recent “media furore”, it might be instructive to do an objective analysis of the approach of the media to this latest matter. It is interesting that even the IPI has been brought into the matter, so fearful has the local arm of the IPI become with respect to press freedom that it calls out the International Press Institute to raise the “mukdar (sledge hammer)” on the Kamla Persad Bissessar government. Ms Kiran Maharaj President of the local Chapter must be on top of the world communicating to IPI to let the government have it because press freedom is now under serious threat and even seige.
Is Press freedom under threat by this government? Let us remind ourselves that press freedom is guaranteed under the constitution. However the question of a responsible press is what the press landlords must themselves answer. When last has the press censored itself. When last has the press said to a member of their fraternity that they had gone too far. If you can’t recall, it is because it has never been done for quite a while or never at all. And yet the TTPBA wants to speak as if it has a code of ethics. There is none! The media is today engaged in sensationalism and have reduced the once highly respected dailies to weekly thrash, except for the Newsday which has retained its balance and journalistic decency.
The media suffers from what is called the “halo” effect. Say “bias” with regard to the media and the media sees attack, loss of freedom, constitutional undermining. This is the height of hypocrisy when the media refuses to examine its approach to dealing with a matter. If the media wants to take a position against the government then by all means come out and say that you are against the Government of the day. This happened in the USA in the last elections. No problem. That is also your right. But if you take a position, is it also not the right of the government to defend against what you say. The media has said that it is not there to push government propaganda nor is it there to make the government look good. I read where another writer has asked whether in saying this the media is not also saying that it is there to make the government look bad. Where then is the fairness principle about which the media boasts.
The media will not admit it but they have taken a position that they are sacrosanct and must never be attacked. They must never be criticized no matter how unjust they might be. Perhaps this is why there are so many more writs being filed against the newspapers than before. For the media, politicians do not have the right to criticize the media and must not say anything close to what might appear to be a criticism So thin skinned has the media become, hiding under the guise of press freedom.
Look at the behaviour of the media.
· They see a picture of a luxury car on the phone of the personal assistant to the AG and conclude that it belongs to the AG and writes about it to cast aspersions on him
· They see the AG repairing his home and it becomes a story
· They see the PM buy a Range Rover which she is entitled to and it becomes a story with a twist.
· Keith Rowley buys a similarly expensive vehicle but it does not make front page
· The media does not comment on the fact that the Pm uses a twenty five year old aircraft to travel to Caracas for the funeral of Chavez risking her life because if she hired a private jet it will be an issue of major importance.
· The media uses a former Minister to insinuate that the PM has an alcoholism problem and they consider that to be fair
· The media does not pay tribute to the PM for her swift dealing with Ministers/Public Officials who contravene Ministerial ethics (Colin Partap, Mary King, Cornelis Baptiste, Verna Toppin)
· A post cab conference is not held and that is sensationalized.
· The Integrity Commission denies that Minister of Sports Anil Roberts is under investigation and the TTPBA does not call on its member to put it right.
· The media openly describes SIS as a financier of the Government and has not confirmed to the public how it has arrived at this conclusion
· The TTPBA puts out CNMG from a meeting because CNMG ‘s CEO Ken Ali criticizes them and that is not accepted as democracy.
· etc, etc etc
Now the media will say that their freedom is being threatened by all of this commentary. The halo effect is at work! So what did the PM really say?
True the word rogue might have been an overkill. But the PM was careful to say that she was in favour of press freedom. She called for responsible journalism and for journalistic integrity. How did this become a threat to the media? You see what I mean by the halo effect and being thin skinned!
Justin. A. Martinez