Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom in Barbados: did it ever exist or is it a new concept?

CAVEAT

(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)

PROLOGUE

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.

Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.” – Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816.

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)…

Security did not even have my name on the list at the gate, I was kept waiting for about 12 minutes until one of their PR management directly intervened. Once at their Yoga Pavilion, I was busy taking pictures and making sure audio was able to be recorded from the various speeches - as a consequence I missed the hors d'oeuvres, no problem, as they announced there was a Dinner so I started to walk with them...

Security did not even have my name on the list at the gate, I was kept waiting for about 12 minutes until one of their PR management directly intervened. Once at their Yoga Pavilion, I was busy taking pictures and making sure audio was able to be recorded from the various speeches – as a consequence I missed the hors d’oeuvres, no problem, as they announced there was a Dinner so I started to walk with them…

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 mostno solidarity?

Lyrical Lava fell down in many ways; poor coordination in not having a comprehensive list left with Security (it wasn't just me, even other BTMI staff were instructed not to park at the resort but by Security's guard-hut on the other side of the street); poor communication in arranging cocktails for Media at a time when dinner is normally had and to top it all... When asked what happens then to just dismiss it as I am upset about not getting anything to eat? I may be chubby and like to eat, but you have to remember - you want me on your side! Think I'll give a damn in future? Lyrical Lava or Ricky Carter?

Lyrical Lava fell down in many ways; poor coordination in not having a comprehensive list left with Security (it wasn’t just me, even other BTMI staff were instructed not to park at the resort but by Security’s guard-hut on the other side of the street); poor communication in arranging cocktails for Media at a time when dinner is normally had and to top it all… When asked what happens then to just dismiss it as I am upset about not getting anything to eat? I may be chubby and like to eat, but you have to remember – you want me on your side! Think I’ll give a damn in future? Lyrical Lava or Ricky Carter?

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 towet 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.”

It was on that basis I approached of the UK's Islamic players and asked, no device recording, if he found any trouble travelling or did his being a cricket player make it easier? He said he's been to Barbados before and even then on vacation, had no trouble. So I asked if I could do this as a recording and he told me he has to verify with his Media Liaison Officer, fair enough...

It was on that basis I approached of the UK’s Islamic players and asked, no device recording, if he found any trouble travelling or did his being a cricket player make it easier? He said he’s been to Barbados before and even then on vacation, had no trouble. So I asked if I could do this as a recording and he told me he has to verify with his Media Liaison Officer, fair enough…

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.”

I guess she was shocked when she learned I was my own boss, since I heard no further on the matter. Maybe she's trying to appear she earned her keep since she used to do PR for Britain's Lawn & Tennis Association, so this is a step up? Anyhow, I am so accustomed battling alone, I did not think to mention it to the other guys until afterwards and the sports camera dudes cussed me for not saying so, as they would have walked out...

I guess she was shocked when she learned I was my own boss, since I heard no further on the matter. Maybe she’s trying to appear she earned her keep since she used to do PR for Britain’s Lawn & Tennis Association, so this is a step up? Anyhow, I am so accustomed battling alone, I did not think to mention it to the other guys until afterwards and the sports camera dudes cussed me for not saying so, as they would have walked out…

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?

Nobody knows the trouble for this one angle, even when I'm going to snap it I was being ordered to move again by a patron, he saw my glare and slithered off post-haste!

Nobody knows the trouble for this one angle, even when I’m going to snap it I was being ordered to move again by a patron, he saw my glare and slithered off post-haste!

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?

At Ben Mar, the official residence of the British High Commissioner, I was shifted about three times while trying to snap some photos of same England Test Cricket team (this was prior to encountering the termagant)... Just as I finally line up my lens? "MOVE, MOVE NOW!"

At Ben Mar, the official residence of the British High Commissioner, I was shifted about three times while trying to snap some photos of same England Test Cricket team (this was prior to encountering the termagant)… Just as I finally line up my lens? “MOVE, MOVE NOW!

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?

Now, just a few days ago when the New Zealand High Commission launched, I get similar nonsense even when I tried to avoid it all over?

Now, just a few days ago when the New Zealand High Commission launched, I get similar nonsense even when I tried to avoid it all over?

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?

No lie, we went 5 times in a circle conversationally - he's saying you cannot block the GG and I am informing him I was only taking photos which was why I was invited... Then he is still going back to his rote mantra, until I pointed out a very clear and logical point which sent him scurrying...

No lie, we went 5 times in a circle conversationally – he’s saying you cannot block the GG and I am informing him I was only taking photos which was why I was invited… Then he is still going back to his rote mantra, until I pointed out a very clear and logical point which sent him scurrying…

“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.

2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Ian,

    Welcome to Barbados.

    I smile as I realise that the “treatment” that is being meted out to people like you is treatment that others from the common walks of life in Barbados are experiencing every day Ian.

    These are not singular occurrences it is just that, in the age of the internet and blogs, it is becoming more “known” for these “unknown” to be aired publicly.

    You said “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!”

    What is frightening is that this is how Barbados is being quietly marketed among the expatriate community as the place where black are being made to “know their place”

    It is not that Bajans are a friendly people, it is that we are being advertised as a docile people where “old England” is alive and well in Little England.

    You is a brown skin fellow, high brown, with a black wife, Ian, that is another perspective that while you have not mentionned it, I can guarantee that it complexions many of the encounters that you experience.

    Who is prepared to stand up to any of this insidious creeping loss of rights and freedom?

    Our GG’s dont think it of importance, they are comfortable older folk who enjoy the comforts of Government House, a car with their initials on it, food and entertainment paid for by the people and a few pictures around the decreasing centenarian population.

    Let us not speak about our politicians or if one does let me say this of their nature

    “I could show, that the same faction has, in one reign, promoted popular seditions, and, in the next, been a patron of tyranny; I could show, that they have all of them betrayed the public safety at all times, and have very frequently with equal perfidy made a market of their own cause, and their own associates. I could show how vehemently they have contended for names, and how silently they have passed over things of the last importance.”

    A timeless quote 318 years old yet as pertinent and instructive of the nature of politicians now as it was then.

    Then there is the church, and what of it you might say? Indeed we have our Senator Priests and Parliamentarian Ministers who each day have shown how they render unto Caesar what is Caesars and unto GOD what is GOD’s, all hail the everlasting tithe.

    Educators, those of the good ones that remain find themselves muzzled or constantly under threat from union squabbles which they must handle carefully lest they are retired unceremoniously.

    The NGO community? What of it? Barring Rodney Grant who else has the balls to stand up against the morass that we find ourselves in?

    And what of the community and its citizens Ian?

    Men like me and you who like a voice crying in the wilderness, have, like the rest of the citizens who have jobs at the media houses, in the public service at the private corporation, have to keep their voices down, their tones modulated, and in many cases their mouths shut lest they are deemed trouble makers and crushed like the insignificant cockroaches that we are.

    Where does it stop?

    I will tell you where, it stops one day when we wake up in this island with a picture of President Yada Yada on the wall of each house and sunnenkinder spies, children of our neighbours reporting back to Comrade Weekes the citizen in charge of our street who, if I dont like you, or want the plot of land that you occupy, I report that you have spit on President Yadas picture, and you are collected and never seen again.

    Fanciful I am sure but I ask you how far is the Omar Gittens’ matter away from that time of persecution?

Pingbacks

Comments

add a comment

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.