There are growing signs that a large section of the media in the country have become timid and fearful of the powers-that-be and engage in a great deal of self-censorship.
This can be gleaned by the approach of some of the press people in their lack of coverage about a particular businessman who is a high profile figure in a company that is an approved agent for the sale of Grenadian passports under the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme.
THE NEW TODAY would hate to think that Grenada is slipping back into the dark days of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution when most media people were considered as “puppets” of the State.
The Maurice Bishop-led People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) had quickly moved after the March 13th, 1979 overthrow of Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy to close down the independent Torchlight newspaper.
This was the start of a vicious battle between the Revolutionary leaders and the major media houses in the Caribbean on the curtailment of press freedom and human rights in the Spice Isle.
The best known independent voice who stood out among the dark clouds was the late Alister Hughes who published his own newsletter and was the local correspondent for several regional and international news agencies.
Several of our journalists moved out of the island to practice their trade in places like Barbados and Montserrat and others settled in the United States and changed their profession.
Hughes and the likes of the late Leslie Pierre and others such as former Prime Ministers Tillman Thomas and the late Ben Jones along with attorney-at-law, Lloyd Noel sought to test the resolve of the PRG leaders with the launch of the Grenadian Voice newspaper.
However, the attempt was short-lived and lasted less than a week as some of the shareholders of the Voice like “Uncle Tilly”, Noel and Pierre were quickly rounded up and sent to the Richmond Hill prison as political detainees.
Freedom for the trio and hundreds of other Grenadians came when the PRG exploded on October 19, 1983 when Bishop was killed in a bloody palace coup and U.S and Caribbean troops landed on our shores to help restore democratic rule of law after nearly five years of non-elected experiment with Marxism.
In recent times, several individual journalists have confided to THE NEW TODAY that they are fearful of covering certain issues for varying reasons.
A case in point is the situation involving Robert Martin Oveson who in November joined forces with his brother to launch the Levera project that is being facilitated by two companies – Grenada Citizenship Development Ltd and Levera Trading Limited.
The truth is THE NEW TODAY was not the first media house on the island to be made aware of Oveson and his involvement in a controversial project in Mexico in 2008.
A Canadian citizen who alleged wrongdoing by Oveson against him in Manzanillo had sent letters to several prominent persons including a particular media house in Grenada in the November/December 2016 period to alert them about the man who was then being promoted as the Levera
This newspaper was only approached after the author of the letters got fed-up with the apparent inaction of a particular journalist to do any follow-up on information that was made available to him.
There was also a second and most important incident in which a young journalist working in a particular media house had copies of documents filed in court by Roger Ver seeking to recover US$1 million he claimed that he was tricked into pumping into the Levera project.
The young journalist was virtually afraid to do anything with the documents and resorted to self-censorship, as he was not getting the support of the more senior colleagues at the workplace.
The frequent and constant complaint is that certain powerful figures in high places will make calls to the owners and operators of several media houses and read the riot act to them.
The threat often used is a pull out of government advertisements and instructions to the statutory bodies to refrain from placing any advertisements in order to keep them in line.
The punitive action employed can also extend to those private business houses where the owners might be supportive or sympathetic to the powers-that-be.
Another “big stick” approach is to use the taxman especially in the Inland Revenue Department to go after “the enemies” and to make them feel if they cannot hear.
There was a known tax collector who was once referred to as the “Spiritual Healer” and operated with a heavy hand against “the opponents” of the NNP regime after the 1995 general election.
Can you imagine the plight of some media houses that owe the state a significant sum of money in back taxes?
The owners and bosses understand the simple message that often emanates – “if you can’t hear you will feel”.
In addition, some well known media surrogates of the government have direct lines to the newsroom of certain media houses and dictate what should make the news and should be kept out.
It is this kind of background that the young and upcoming journalists are forced to learn the trade – little or no support from the top especially managers who are more concerned and pre-occupied with their own survival.