PAULA LINDO AND ELIZABETH GONZALES
The Prime Minister has said there are no independent media in TT.
During Thursday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, he also said media houses had a problem with the truth and interests to protect. Members of journalist associations responded to Dr Rowley's remarks.
Dr Sheila Rampersad, president of the Media Association (MATT), said, “This is, sadly, not an unusual performance from a prime minister in the final year of an administration. Journalists and media houses walk this road every election cycle when proclamations of support for the institution of a free press are belied by the behaviour of senior political office holders.”
Commenting on the fact that the news media have been asking questions about a visit by a Venezuelan vice president, she said, “Journalists will persist in their questioning on behalf of the public, on this and other matters, no matter how inconvenient. That is our job and our role in a democracy that we will not abandon. We will not be censored or forced into self-censorship. Journalists will continue to hold power to account and to pursue transparency on behalf of the public.”
Veteran journalist and Association of Caribbean Media Workers executive member Wesley Gibbings said by definition, independent media are entitled, if not expected, to hold independent views on things, including matters of self-interest.
“For that they should be free. This includes public matters in which we would find few of them are politically neutral matters. The problem would however arise if news reporting, as opposed to the editorial position of media houses, is found to lack balance, fairness, and truthfulness.
"But in my experience the vast majority of news reporters in our media business here, set about to meet those high standards."
Dawn Thomas, CEO of One Caribbean Media, defended the media house’s credibility and standards.
She reminded Newsday on Thursday night: “The OCM Group is the holding company for several print and electronic media companies including the Trinidad Express and CCN TV6. “Additionally, since 2012 the group has made sound investments in diverse businesses both in Trinidad and regionally,” she added.
“I have taken note of the PM’s statements…and in particular, the statement that ‘We do not have any independent media houses in TT.’
“In response, I wish to assure the public, whom we diligently serve, that all of our media entities have and will continue to be committed to accurate, fearless and independent journalism that will never be compromised.
“It is my view that the PM’s statement is most unfortunate and does not accurately reflect the state of the free press that is cherished in TT.”
Newsday’s editor-in-chief Judy Raymond said, “Unlike many other local media houses, Newsday is most certainly independent. We are not part of any business conglomerate. To my knowledge, we are not protecting or promoting the interest of any group, except that of the public. In my time here I have never once been given instructions to publish or withhold any story or any piece of information.
“Regrettably, we make errors at times but, as the PM himself acknowledged, we apologise for doing so.
“Like the president of MATT, I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’ve seen this before as part of a cycle the media go through at the hands of every government.”