Founder of Curacao Media Organisation, Merrill Sulvaran, wants Caribbean journalists to take a “we fo we” stand when dealing with the issue of safety.
Addressing scores of journalists at the 20th Anniversary of World Press Freedom Day and Caribbean Media Summit in Curacao last week, Sulvaran delivered a presentation as part of a panel discussion on the topic, “Safety of Journalist in the Caribbean: Where are we and what should be done?
He holds the view that “How one perceives the collectivity of the media in a country represents the degree of respect each participating journalist in that country enjoys”.
Sulveran who has a Master of Science Degree in strategic management and organisational change from the Kingdom University of Groningen in the Netherlands, has been active in the Curacao media since 1994 and has produced different newspapers and magazines
He told practitioners that media in the Caribbean territories have the tendency to accept unfounded criticisms without “hitting” back.
His concept of “we fo we” encourages the Caribbean media to start caring for each other collectively, creating a common barrier against offenders and violators of freedom of expression.
“If media participants in a country respect each other, and maintain a constant quality evaluation and control of their own performance, more respect will be created towards the media in corresponding country”, he said.
According to Sulveran, “Media in the Caribbean Territories tend to be stand alone units.
“Strategic Business Units compete in a small-scale economy with no or less chances of growth. There is no time for collectivity thinking. Even worse, there is no time for training and quality development”, he said.
“This practical approach to media operation may also be one of the determining factors of image deterioration of the media in the Caribbean islands”, he added.
He contended that owners of the media in the Caribbean tend to neglect collectivity, not only commercially but also operationally.
A neglect attitude towards competing media deteriorates the formation of protective barriers against defamation and other types of attacks towards the Caribbean media,” he said.
Sulveran says that if this concept of “we fo we” is not embraced, media in the Caribbean territories could be victimised by bold expressions, offensive expressions, defamation, threats and even death.
He noted that lately in the Caribbean, death threats against practitioners have increased and suggested that collective thinking on the part of both journalists and media managers should be promoted.
“As of the moment, media attackers in the Caribbean “get away” with it because they know they will not be punished or there is no reprimandal system to control the offense, either physical offense or verbal.
“Once a media unit is ‘under’ attack on one of the Caribbean islands, their colleagues will stay quiet, as if ‘not my concern’.
Sullveran charged that media persons in the Caribbean should start to focus on collectivity.
He said that challenges facing Caribbean media are many and that on the organisational level, he believes that the media should gear operations towards quality control, forming a body of control and protection and organisations that protect practitioners.
Sulveran told journalists they need to forget the smallness of the islands and take advantage of their sizes.
“We need to forget that most Caribbean islands are of low population. Small communities where politicians are neighbours and policemen are part-time sport trainers. “We fo we” concept need to be implemented because everybody knows everybody on the islands”, he said.
“The benefit of small scale communities is that we can attain self protection relatively easier compared to large scale communities. Once unified, the protective mechanism will function much better. People will think before trying to attack. Knowing the collective consequences of the media ‘being on your back,” he said.
Cherrian Blackman-Stephen, reporter at THE NEW TODAY newspaper was one of the Grenada representatives in Curacao, sponsored by UNESCO.