May 7, 2004
Walking stick on the media

Media took the spotlight this week and saw practitioners being subjected to heavy criticism by some noted intellectuals who now command high positions of power and influence, both elected and nominated, in different fora across the region.{{more}}
Down in Trinidad, our own brilliant son of the soil and now United States Ambassador, Roy Austin, found himself firing a verbal salvo at that country’s media. His criticism of our Trinidadian counterparts came after Jamaica’s Professor Rex Nettleford called Austin’s boss, U.S. President George Bush, “the world’s most dangerous weapon of mass distraction.”
This was at a function marking the move of the Commonwealth Journalism Association from London to the UWI, Trinidad, at which both Caribbean sons were invited to speak.
Austin reportedly fired back, accusing Nettleford of presenting half-truths to misguide the public about Bush. But, in his anger, he went further and reprimanded the Caribbean media and politicians for not speaking out about the lack of press freedom in Cuba, and said there was a crisis of credibility in journalism in the region.
The Trinidad and Tobago media were chastised for not carrying a report sent to them by the ambassador sometime earlier. But Austin’s comments met with much criticism, including veteran journalist George John, who even went as far as questioning why Austin, a representative of the United States, had been invited to address a Commonwealth function.
Still in Trinidad the media again found themselves at the end of a tongue-lashing by Prime Minister Patrick Manning who charged that there was “a considerable amount of bias, character assassination and slander which passes for journalism” as he called on the media to “get their act together.”
Right home here, our own media- friendly Dr. Ralph Gonsalves took a turn on local media houses. The Doc seems frustrated that we have not been following his cue, to “pressure” his parliamentary opposite Arnhim Eustace, about charges that he had been meeting with Caribbean Star owner Allan Stanford. In the Prime Minister’s view, we were doing “a disservice” to the people.
This is not the first time that politicians have launched broadsides at the media, often in frustration.
But when both sides of the political coin start expressing frustration at the media, is it that we are doing something so wrong? Or is it that we are just not often moved to follow the political whims and fancies of our politicians and their constantly shifting positions?
Sure we need additional training for media personnel, and gladly many of our counterparts are embarking on that course. But maybe what we do need too, is a bit more respect for our independence of thought, from politicians up and down the Caribbean who tend so often to blow hot and cold
depending on how it suits their