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Monday 9 December 2019
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Rowley stews over Tim’s BBC response

Dr Keith Rowley
Dr Keith Rowley

THE Prime Minister and the British High Commissioner to TT yesterday engaged in a "tweet for tat" over a documentary on this country's handling of Venezuela migrants by internationally respected and award-winning British media outlet, The BBC.
For his part, High Commissioner Tim Stew seemed to take a diplomatically neutral position on the government's tiff with the BBC documentary. But PM Rowley's response was anything but diplomatic.
On Monday, the Prime Minister aimed his anger and condemnation towards the BBC for its online documentary which aired on Sunday and highlighted the plight of Venezuelans seeking to register with the TT government's amnesty programme. Rowley vowed to write the British government "to set the record straight."
But commenting on the tiff yesterday, via social media, High Commissioner Stew said that the UK government and all its stakeholders remain fully committed to a free press.
“As I have said, the UK’s commitment to freedom of expression means that the UK media including the BBC are independent of the UK Government,” Stew said in a statement on his official Twitter account.
In an immediate response, Rowley took to his social media accounts, pointing out the influence the UK Government has over its media and challenging High Comissioner Stew to respond on whether or not the BBC documentary had represented TT fairly.
"Independent? The BBC gets billions of pounds from the UK Government to carry on their business. They mirror and reflect British Government Policy. The UK Government determines and causes all television users to pay a license fee to them. They send coded messages around the world for the British government," Rowley said. "That is not the response we want from him (Stew)," Rowley added.
The 15-minute documentary, dubbed "The Displaced: When 40,000 people hit a tiny island", sought to describe the experience of Venezuelans who fled to TT amid their country’s economic and political strife.
Several TT nationals who looked at the documentary on the BBC’s YouTube page commented on it. Andrew Sparks posted: “We In Trinidad and Tobago have done a great deal to help the Venezuelan migrants settle and live, like everywhere there are idiots within our country who are xenophobic, but in general, the average Trinidadian has no issue.
"It wasn't stated in the video, but Trinidad already has a large immigrant population that is as large as 20 per cent of our population by some estimates so we have no hate for foreigners but you cannot expect a small nation with a plethora of problems of its own to shelter tens of thousands of people without any limit.”
Another viewer, Ria Slater, said: “Trinidad and Tobago has always been one of the most responsive islands in the Caribbean to assist our neighbours during times of crisis, BBC please be more objective in presenting your stories this is not a true reflection of the situation.” The PNM’s San Fernando East Party group, summed up its feelings on the documentary: "This is rubbish.”

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