The United National Congress notes with deep concern a matter that affects fairness and balance in the media.
This matter goes to the very root of our democracy as it relates to the role of the fourth estate in providing our citizenry with “objective” information upon which they can make informed decisions.
With the news that the PNM has chosen Express columnist Clarence Rambharat as its candidate for Mayaro, and Sunday Guardian columnist Maxie Cuffie as the party’s La Horquetta-Talparo, the issue now arises whether the owners of these publications are being fair in the manner in which they report and comment on the politics of our country.
One Caribbean Media (OCM), the parent company of the Express, and Guardian Media Limited (GML), the parent company of the Sunday Guardian must, on ethical considerations, immediately remove them as columnists until after the next general election if they are to be considered true guardians of our democracy and exemplars of its traditions.
By his own admission, Mr. Cuffie has declared that he no longer considers himself a journalist. He is quoted in the Express newspaper (Oct. 9, 2014) as saying that it has been “a long transition” from journalist to politician. “I left the media in 2003, working in politics in an advisory capacity,” he told the paper. That suggests that his work at the TnT Mirror was not journalism and the same applies to the Sunday Guardian, since he has been since 2003 a political adviser.
There is also another issue with their continued presence as columnists. It raises the whole issue of campaign finance reform.
Both individuals as columnists occupy significant spaces in the newspapers. Now that they are declared candidates for the PNM, they have free spaces in their respective newspapers to pontificate in a manner that will support both their candidacies and their party.
The cost of those spaces is significant if computed between now and the next general election based on the rates charged by both newspapers for political advertising space. A newspaper column is more powerful than paid advertising so in effect these companies are making substantial political contributions to the PNM by their retention of these two candidates of the PNM as columnists.
As a result, we ask the Board of Directors of both OCM and GML to publicly declare the cost of their campaign contribution to the PNM for having both columnists continuing their columns from now until the next general election. And we also ask them to stop presenting these gentlemen as columnists.
We make this request in the interest of asking both media houses to lead the way by example on the issues of campaign finance reform, good governance and fairness and balance in the media.
The same argument can be made against any media house who has a candidate of a political party writing columns after having been declared as a candidate of a political party.
For further information please contact: Rodney Charles, PRO/Campaign Chair
Phone: (868) 322-1766 – email: email@example.com