Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom in Barbados: did it ever exist or is it a new concept?
(Before I start my review and analysis, let’s make it absolutely clear that neither Jet Blue, nor the British High Commission far less the New Zealand High Commission are felt to be culpable in any of the incidents listed in this article, the aforementioned entities are unaware bystanders and should not be thought of as responsible in any way)
Before I begin to express my own concerns, let’s hear current and obsolete versions of how outsiders perceive Barbados and its media…
“Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed, and media are generally able to operate without restrictions; however, Barbados does not have freedom of information legislation. Representatives of the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) occasionally criticized the media for spreading what they said was ill-informed criticism of the government. In February, Prime Minister and BLP leader Owen Arthur publicly criticized Harold Hoyte, the editor-in-chief of the Nation Publishing Company Ltd. Arthur said that the Nation newspaper–one of the country’s two dailies – ran articles that were driven by Hoyte’s “political agenda.” Of the eleven radio frequencies, three are run by the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, which also operates a television station. In August, the Barbados-based Caribbean Media Corporation launched CaribVision, a new 24-hour Caribbean TV channel. Caribvision is beamed to over 10 Caribbean countries and to North America. There are no government restrictions on internet access, utilized by 60 percent of the population in 2006.” – Press Freedom survey on 186 countries
Clearly this was an audit not updated since 2007 at most, so let’s go more recently?
“Barbados has topped the list in Latin America and the Caribbean as the country perceived to be the least corrupt in the region.
Its enviable ranking is contained in 2010 Corruption Perception report by the international watchdog Transparency International (TI).
Not only does TI place Barbados at the top of the Latin American and Caribbean region, the Caribbean nation is second only to Canada in the entire Americas.
The United States is in 4th place while Chile is 3rd…” – Barbados least corruptible
I remember reading this erstwhile BBC Caribbean item of 2010 and laughing ’til I nearly peed!
Corruption is not necessarily Government or Business outrightly controlling where a story can probe, it can also be when Media is treated as less than a Second Class citizen or a piece of furniture and the reporters accept it, when buying into this behavior it is allowing not only others but yourself to limit your full potential.
If you are not storytelling at peak capacity, then why are you functioning? Let companies or Government(s) do their own gig and close up shop! Which, in fact, many concerns may actually prefer… In this way, more underhand events or clandestine deals which can adversely affect the majority of Barbadians can be completed without interference in order to fatten a few pockets, which contravenes the wishes of one of the earliest American leaders;-
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the
very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to
me to decide whether we should have a government without
newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” – Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787.
It is interesting to note his concern was not an election gimmick but a long-standing concern even as President. There are claims he wanted to free all slaves in 1776 but it was considered too radical a move even as the 13 Colonies sought to separate from the UK.
How does the homeland of Crispus Attucks fare lo, these 240 years later? Not very well in my view, oh friends and neighbours, pour me a drink and let me relate a few pithy travails…
WHEN LAVA WAS NOT SO LYRICAL & SONGS SUNG BLUE
When Jet Blue announced their Mint service was announcing 2 flights from Boston, it was held at Sandals in Dover Beach and I was called in at the last minute as I was about to celebrate my Wedding Anniversary (my wife is a workaholic so she graciously let me take the job, much to my regret as you shall read)…
Not for Media, I was paused by Christal Austin of Lyrical Lava PR who reveals at this late stage, then I explain how I was ravenous since I skipped dinner to attend. Then Ricky Carter from VOB interrupts to ask what is happening, and Austin sniffs that “Ian is complaining there was no food,” which was not accurate, but the insult on injury was when Carter says?
“WELL I DON’T KNOW ABOUT HE, BUT I CAME HERE TO WORK…” At this point I swore I left Sandals’ Yoga Pavilion and now I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, here is this Starcom drone who got countless lifts from distant assignments by me not to mention the many copies of audio I streamed to him when his device failed, but now when I needed it most – no solidarity?
All media should have been told from the start what the procedure was, the Bridgetown US Embassy tried a similar thing once and failed miserably! This is a case where media was treated as useful furniture expected to disappear when no longer needed.
In addition, betrayal by a supposed colleague at prime instance where full support was expected (Do you know how many times Carter would come to me during an assignment and privately whine over how there is nothing to ‘wet your whistle‘ or a Sodabix with a crumb of cheese to munch and how he skipped lunch, etc, ad nauseam?), if he needs back-up for an event now? I hope he has good walking shoes and he makes sure to carry a spare voice recording device!
IT’S JUST NOT CRICKET
The other day when the West Indies were set to play England, I was invited by the British High Commission to speak with the players at Kensington Oval, in fact, let me quote;
“The local and visiting media are invited to attend this occasion, which will include a press briefing, an announcement by SFLI Barbados and a presentation by the British High Commissioner. England Team members will be available for interview on the day.”
This vicious little termagant called Rhia Evans storms up to me and says I (BajanReporter.com) will not be asking any questions of any players! I look down at her and ask if this is a question or a statement, she says she’s ordering me and I respond…
“You must be mad, I ask questions for a living, if I wanted to be dishonest I could have recorded from the beginning but I asked the player first!” Then she yanks my media badge around my neck, to see and get my name for “An Official Complaint.”
Foreigners who are invited here do not have the right to trample over local people as if we’re back in 1715, this is 2015 the 21st Century! Would they have walked out? Hope so, I’d like to think there is still some 1937 left in many Bajans, if not all…
But sometimes it’s not a case of Britain trying to be Pre-Colonial, Barbados can be worse than Ye Merrie England!
IT’S NICE TO BE IMPORTANT, BUT IT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO BE NICE
What exactly is the benefit of a Governor General (GG)? Do they change Laws or settle Electoral disputes? When has any GG or Governor General made a key difference in the function of Barbados and its legislature? I don’t know so please, enlighten me as I truly doubt it and if so, is it still needed? Can we dump the GG without going Republic?
I have to ask since I’ve had not one but two run-in’s with his
goons bodyguards in the space of one month, is he God? Even if he was, is he above the Law or (Un)Common Sense?
It was a
henchman bodyguard of the GG, I was like “Huh? Why?” He says my bag is a threat (I have a medium-sized “man-purse,” which I got in Guyana precisely to keep all my reporting gear in one small tote), and I felt my eyebrow shoot up and I said if I was gonna blow up the GG he’d be gone every since. Man’s eye’s went very wide and repeats gruffly I have to move, all up to now, no please nor excuse me from this dude yet…
“Move me,” I said about to resume snapping – would you believe the petite fellow reaches for his cell and starts saying “We have a situation…” just as the videographer from CBC begs me to move as he wants no drama before he gets the speeches, he looked like he was about to have an embolism, so for old camaraderie’s sake I did as he asked. But utter crap!
Nevertheless, a cricket legend later said I have to bear in mind when Sir Elliott Belgrave was a judge he sent many a fellow to meet the noose, so this is why they behave so. But to the point of no manners?
This time I left my “bag” on a table with a fellow guest as I went to take a picture, as I’m snapping? “You blocking the Governor General, you have to move!” I look back and it is the same fellow, I explain was just taking a photo… “MOVE NOW!” So I take 2 more for sheer spite, all of 3 seconds, then Senator Maxine McClean looks at me and simpers, “YOU’RE NOT TO BLOCK THE GOVERNOR GENERAL!” I look at her and say I’m just trying to do my job.
All of this took 20 seconds if so much, yet as I’m about to start writing the speech down, a Chief Constable asks to “have a word with me,” and I was like… Seriously? I am sure he came to me of his own volition, and not ordered to go and interrogate me as payback for any events in Guyana in 2013?
“You know, all of us, yourself included, if we just packed up and exited, then left the dignitaries here by themselves you do know then there’d be no reason for this event?”
The man looked at me as if I spoke an incantation from the Necromicon, bid me a subdued good night and whisked off to God knows where… The thing is, he’s probably accustomed to media just acquiescing and no more, then on top of it I suggest what appears to be heresy but it’s only a demand for the same amount of respect you expect me to give – if I don’t feel it then am I bound to provide what is not there?
“No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.” – Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.