January 15, 2016
We stand our ground

We respect the decision of the New Democratic Party (NDP) to support the call of a particular political activist not to engage with SEARCHLIGHT, but respectfully, we wonder if this is not a case of the tail wagging the dog.

In addition to the usual convenient complaint about bias, the activist in question has levelled a most bizarre accusation against us – that we unfairly target women who speak out against injustices and who mount political platforms. The leadership of the NDP with whom we have interacted have not said much to us when we reached out, other than that their decision not to engage us is because they perceive an anti-NDP bias on our part.

For the record, SEARCHLIGHT is not affiliated with any political party in St Vincent and the Grenadines or elsewhere. The company is owned by more than 20 persons of varying political persuasions, with that diversity being reflected on the company’s board of directors.

We fiercely defend the editorial independence of our newspaper, as indeed, we respect that of the writers of our opinion pieces, including our weekly columnists. Certainly, just as much as we cherish our right to express our opinions, we also respect that right of others. Political parties and readers are also entitled to their views and to agree or disagree with ours.

That being said, SEARCHLIGHT is comfortable that we make all reasonable effort to provide fair and balanced reportage, with corroboration of facts by as many sources as possible and a balance of viewpoints. We would admit that from time to time (even prior to the stated boycott) our efforts to get comments and perspective from some persons associated with the NDP would be met with rejection or hostility, which would mean that their perspective may not be sufficiently represented in our stories. Over the years we have not let this deter us, and even now, we continue to reach out to everyone, not just politicians, in our effort to continue to provide journalism the people have come to trust.

We must note however, that we find the charge levelled against us of “unfair treatment of women in politics” to be passing strange. We challenge those making this accusation against SEARCHLIGHT to provide the evidence of what they are saying. Is it that we are on the one hand calling for more women to play active roles in politics, but then saying, by the way, when they do, there must be a different standard by which they must be judged or dealt with by the media? As we noted in a recent editorial, sometimes when we look in the mirror, we do not like what we see. Political parties should resist the urge to consistently turn a blind eye to criticism or to pass off the exposure of weaknesses as simply another example of bias on the part of the media house making the criticism.

Most worrying though, is the context in which all this is happening. The post-election scenario has been sullied by arson, attempted arson and threats against persons perceived to have particular political leanings. In such a context, one cannot take the attacks against our newspaper lightly.

Whatever one’s views on the political situation and the elections, the post-election criminal behaviour must be condemned roundly. It is important that all political parties make it abundantly clear that they do not support such reckless and irresponsible behaviour from whatever source.

As for SEARCHLIGHT, we are undaunted in the execution of our mission and will continue to exercise our journalistic independence and the right to make critical comment. We are also confident, based on empirical evidence, that the majority of our readers recognize the unfounded nature of the accusations levelled against us. We therefore stand our ground.