Prime Minister of Trinidad stops short of commitment, promises to examine Media Discrimination

“…whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter…”

Earlier this year, I got an opportunity which was provided by the British High Commission to visit Trinidad at a special media conference. The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) partnered with the International Press Institute (IPI) who spent much time, energy and resources seeking to have Governments within the region decriminalise slander and libel as it relates to jailing reporters.

Mrs Bethel-McKenzie with Pavol Mudry at Hilton Barbados relating to Barbadian journalists, which is almost like asking a piranha to help a shark or a crab?

The team included ACM President Wayne GibbingsPavol Mudry from Eastern Europe, Mariela Hoyer Guerrero of Latin America and the IPI’s Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie, herself a native of the Bahamas, many of the islands promising to look at the statutes concerning where reporters’ comments may offend the Powers That Be…

Do you remember a campaign for a perfume from Lanvin called Arpege? When politicians say this law or such a crisis is under scrutiny (Or is that screw-tiny? As in HOW much of a … they truly give?), I always think of this Ad (see below) which sums up their true definition, for my part…

I suspect many a politician near and far uses the same kind of principle to allay their constituents or communities…

The principle is the same – pledge the sun, moon and stars but no concrete action which can overturn the mango-cart or spoil the eddoes. There is more on why I say this ahead in my story for you to consider…

TTPBA President – Kiralan Maharaj

I was reviewing my audio from the night I recorded at the Diplomatic Centre in Port Of Spain, which is why you’re now reading this. That was a night indeed! Security more anal than what obtains at 2 Mile Hill or Central Bank here, the Diplomatic Centre is huge but they didn’t want too many pictures taken.

The big buzz in the Twin Island Republic even then was when their Police seized hard drives of media personnel not just from work but their homes as well! That could NOT happen just so in USA, yet it seems the only difference between a Republica De Platano and the West Indies is that most of us here use English as our main tongue!

When the PM was delayed in arrival, they brought out Denyse Plummer to entertain the troops, of course she sang “Nah Leaving”

According to Kiralan Maharaj – President of the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers & Broadcasters Association (TTPBA), the fact such an event occurred under Kamla Persaud-Bissessar‘s regime is truly sad when one reviews the previous history of many of her Cabinet colleagues {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

The TTPBA leader reminded the audience how many now holding Office were Talk Show Hosts, Newspaper Columnists and even the Prime Minister herself had a weekly radio show where she invited listeners to call and express their doubts and fears.

In an effort for both sides to reach an accord the TTPBA is planning a series of courses where both Media and Government reach common ground {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Laws on Media in Trinidad are hap-hazard and ad hoc, sometimes closing the barn door after the gelding has flown, as a result both the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the TTPBA where legislation affects not only Government or practitioners but Trinidadians as a rule.

(L/R) Clive Bacchus, who I knew best by BBC’s “Caribbean Report,” and Enrico Woolford, now based in St Kitts and I met while at CBC TV 8

Ms Maharaj nevertheless recognises even the Media itself in this part of the world need to do more to be respectable and accountable for everyone and not just the Law or Government, whoever’s in Office {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

The TTPBA President says not only Port Of Spain but throughout the region there continues to be a drought of Human Interest matters, stories related to Environmental changes (man-made or otherwise) and genuinely Investigative studies which can effect positive change for all around them.

Kamla’s arrival was long and drawn out, I was beginning to wonder if she’d even bother to appear, it did not matter as I was really enjoying the Jazz Meets East band from Pénal. However she eventually reached the Centre, no mistaking it, USA-type Secret Service dudes arrive before her, standing all around the room… As bad as Barbados can be, at least our leaders can swirl among the people alone and even drive themselves without a chauffeur!

Front Row with IPI & TT Gov’t dignitaries as Anthony Dennison introduces the Prime Minister

Not wishing for an International incident, I asked them if I can take pictures and they show where a line is about 8 feet from her and they said “No Further” in such a way I did not bother to find out what if … ? The Trini shutterbugs were far more charming, and even stood aside to let me get a better angle.

Tabla and saxophone? Oh yes! These guys were good, they took all sorts of Pop and Calypso and made it anew with their rendition which mixed jazz and sitars!

Kamla made sure to be sleek and quiet yet assertive, her obvious defence was to place the shoe on the other foot, are Media doing enough to regulate themselves? She even was facetious enough to say how the audience are respectable media practitioners yet she had only the word of a select few to go by and she trusts her sources yet who guards the guards…

What I really would have loved to ask PM Kamla is how on God’s Green Earth could she put Jack Warner as Nat’l Security Minister? What does the man have on her? Even Jennifer Lopez refused to be blackmailed by her former Bodyguard/Chauffeur… The man reason certain things happen in the car while he was transporting her and if she want him quiet, then hands up! Blam! Breach of Confidence countersuit in his N’en-N’en! Come clean, Kamla, the people will love you more for being honest!

She even dropped a li’l Spider Man? Yes nuh, Kamla made sure to say with ‘great power comes great responsibility,’ I expected Peter Parker to start crawling down the wall in Trini colours at any moment then! 😉

So after getting the dander of the reporters up, she then closes in and offers a sop {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

She says how Albert Ramlogan – the Attorney General (of her almighty Cabinet) will review the punitive aspect of defamation laws and the crowd applauds before they stop and think…

I mean, Hari Krsna folks! The PM says “REVIEW” not changes and amendments made by (state a deadline) and then she reinforces the Peter Parker ethos {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

She told IPI delegates and seminar participants how their role is a great trust placed in them by the public and therefore they must treat their profession with respect as the power is huge which they wield (Ok, so why them paid so crappy then compared to many Gov’t counterparts in POS & B’town?)

This is why I was remembered the Arpege philosophy, in addition I recalled the great tricks of David Copperfield and other great illusionists who made up seem down or disappearing significant landmarks then restoring them when they were there all along, it’s just we got misdirected.

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