There has been a lot of talk in recent times about media freedom, media responsibility and democracy. One of the things that strikes me about it is that some media have a clear bias that extends from their commentaries and editorials to reporting the daily news.
While I have no problem with any media organisation having a bias based on the agenda of its owners and publishers, my view is that in order to be fair to the citizens in a free and democratic state media must deal with the news based on truth, fairness and balance.
And here is where the double standard comes into focus. The media – including the Express – have been on a witchhunt, trying to find some iota of evidence to hang the People’s Partnership’s Jack. But in spite of sending a reporter to hunt down Jack Warner’s sons in Miami and revealations about FBI and IRS investigations there still is no smoking gun. (And we’re not talking about all that went before.)
However, when Mariano Browne was clearly under investigation for alleged fraud Patrick Manning appointed him to cabinet in the finance ministry. And nobody demanded that he step aside during the investigation.
Nobody lifted a finger, there were no daily demands for him to quit and Manning kept Browne in the finance ministry until the PNM met its Waterloo on May 24, 2010.And from that day, Jack Warner became a target for the media. I don’t think so much copy has been wasted on any politician in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. I say wasted because the intent has not been to present clear and unbiased news, but really to get Jack one way or another.
When the shoe was on the other foot not a damn dog bark. In case you are wondering what’s the issue with Browne, it’s easy to find it on the Internet. But here’s a snapshot of what it was all about.
In 2007, when Browne joined the Manning PNM cabinet the Barbados Free Press ran a story stating that as far back as 2004 Browne had been accused of fraud by his former Barbados-based employer. The report said Browne’s employers alleged that he “breached his fiduciary duty” by:
- Making unathorised payments to himself and others
- Purchasing an unauthorised car for a “senior staffer” Cheryll Drakes using the bank’s funds
- Paying unauthorised and undocumented “bonuses” to himself and other staff
- Removing and destroying a laptop computer with the bank’s business records on it
- Activities euphemistically called “accounting irregularities”
Other companies and persons mentioned in a lawsuit against Browne, which was apparently concealed from the public domain for three years, included CL Financial, Andre Monteil, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Central Bank of Barbados. (And Manning put him in charge of T&T’s finance along with a lawyer, Karen Nunez-Tesheira.)