TTPBA: PM anti-media rant can prompt 'dangerous behaviour'

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -

THE TT Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) has said the Prime Minister's rant against the media during Thursday's post-Cabinet conference can result in journalists being put in danger.

Dr Rowley, commenting on news reports over the TT/US diplomatic row – following a visit by Venezuela’s president – said there were no independent media houses in the country and all media outlets had interests to protect.

The TTPBA in a media release on Friday, said that as an individual he is free to hold an opinion, but as Prime Minister elected by the citizens, he must have an expectation, as a member of government, of being held accountable.

"The position of our Prime Minister is familiar and over the decades the media has been subjected to similar comments by our country’s leaders. Prime ministers and governments change, but media remains. It is also normal in an election year that tension between incumbents and the media heightens. It is déjà vu chatter!"

The TTPBA said that over the years the media has experienced cyberbullying by politicians: a prime minister going to a radio station and pulling the plug; threats of revocation of a broadcast licence and the refusal to grant a broadcast license; attempts to fetter freedom of speech via legislation; and other matters.

The association said this was part of the tug of war between governments and media in several countries the world over, and an aspect of society that is constant and a characteristic of democratic nations.

"The all too familiar attacks on the media from all parties any time the facts reported are not to their liking should not numb us to the dangers this behaviour presents. Not only to the physical danger to journalists, as ardent (party) supporters are unable to see through the politicking and take matters into their own hands but to the danger to our democracy.

A free press, which includes freedom from intimidation and reprisals, is a cornerstone of democracy and the increasing assaults and venom with which they are delivered should be a concern to us all."

The TTPBA said local journalists remain committed to the public they serve and to the principles of truth without fear or favour. The association added that in a democracy the role of the media is to hold leaders accountable and journalists must insist upon transparency.

"We believe our news must be fair and balanced. Where there has been inaccuracy, we correct it."

The TTPBA said the media is a reflection of our nation’s people and in a plural society with 36 radio stations, three daily newspapers, ten local television stations and subscription television, the media seeks to fill the multitude of appetites.

"There is a difference between 'news' and commentary, opinion and analysis which may have a perspective. These angles are meant to inform the public we serve and to empower them because they have the right to choose and make their own decisions on issues that affect their daily lives."

The association said the statement by Rowley that “the media has interests to protect” and his specific reference to media owners is concerning, "especially when the credibility of these entities and the public’s reliance on their news coverage has stood the test of time". TTPBA pointed out that the government also owns media that competes with private enterprise and that may be seen as self-serving as it is subsidised by taxpayers.

"Yet independent media has never protested the existence of government media. Independent media has also applauded the work of government with the most recent example being the response to covid19. But when there is an issue that demands answers, we will not step back and leave our public in the dark."

The association stressed the interest the media protects is the right of the people to know and to report without fear or favour.

"Our commitment to the voting public and our search for truth is what we safeguard. The media and the government have a shared mission – to serve the citizens of TT. It is a common objective that we are bound by daily, in the interest of the highest good of the public."


"TTPBA: PM anti-media rant can prompt 'dangerous behaviour'"

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