The Prime Minister and Minister of Information, Dr. Keith Mitchell, as part of his efforts to rebuild his image, has issued a challenge to the local media.
Dr. Mitchell has had a somewhat hot and cold relationship with the media during his 13 year stint from June 1995 to July 2008 with several media houses and some individual journalists.
Describing himself as a changed man, the newly elected Prime Minister has signaled his intention to operate a more open door and friendly policy towards the media.
It is not clear whether Hamlet Mark, the new Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister on Information has anything to do with influencing Prime Minister Mitchell on this new policy adoption or if Dr. Mitchell did it all on his own as part of his commitment towards his legacy after more than 40 years in the political arena.
The challenge from Dr. Mitchell is for the local media to first check with his government before carrying a report that might have negative connotations for his administration and by extension the country.
THE NEW TODAY is not prepared to cast judgment at this point in time on whether this is a move to engage in some sort of disguised form of censorship of the media.
Time alone will tell. However, it is only fair that the media seek to
get “the other side” of the story by engaging in some kind of investigation.
The new government also has a similar responsibility to provide information to the media when questions are asked in order to get
It cannot be a one-sided approach in the new relationship which Dr. Mitchell is seeking to develop with the local media.
A case in point is the request made by experienced broadcast journalist George Grant about three weeks ago to seek information in
order to clarify a statement made at a press conference by Minister of Communication & Works, Gregory Bowen about Grenada’s suspension from the Kuwaiti funds.
This newspaper understands that Mr. Grant asked for the documentation about the suspension and was promised it and up to now the information cannot be made available.
In all fairness to Mr. Bowen, he did not give any commitment to provide the document. It came from Mr. Mark. Mr. Bowen indicated that the information could be had from the Ministry of Finance.
Luckily, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine was in the vicinity of the Press Conference and was approached on the information.
Mr. Grant did get a commitment that the document verifying Grenada’s suspension from the Kuwaiti fund would be made available to him. More than three weeks have passed and no one from the Government side has seen it fit to carry through on the promise.
Perhaps, it is time for the Prime Minister, Dr. Mitchell to get into the act as part of his newlook policy towards the media and get his people to provide the information as requested by Mr. Grant.
This information is important because it will provide the evidence that the previous government hoodwinked the Grenadian people on their claims that the Kuwait-funded CCC road rehabilitation project was about to re-start during their watch especially in the last year.
The lack of co-operation by the government on this issue will lead many to question the sincerity of the Prime Minister’s commitment to be more open and friendly with the media. One hand cannot and will not be able to clap. It takes two as the people will say to tango.
Even on the issue of providing information to the people, the Prime Minister will need to inform his Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries to be forthcoming at all times with the people and refrain from engaging in behavior which leads to suspicion.
Take for instance, the recent appearance on “To the Point” by Parliamentary Secretary for Information, Senator and Pastor Winston Garraway when a female caller to the programme asked him to clarify and be specific on allegations made not only by himself but other persons from government about the former NDC government paying large sums of money to one of its supporters in rental fees.
Mr. Garraway’s behavior was not becoming of a Minister of the government as he engaged in what can best be described as semantics in not answering a straight forward question that was put to him.
It is either he has or does not have information that the NDC person in the south of the island was being paid thousands of dollars from the Treasury for use of his building. The individual concern has denied being paid one single cent from government to use his building to set up a sub-office of the VAT Office.
This is a good opportunity for the PM to act and give more teeth to
his new rapprochement with the media and to get all his Ministers to
be more forthcoming with not only the media but the people-at-large when they ask for relevant information.
It is, however, still early days to cast any final judgment on the Prime Minister’s attempt to engage the media in a new and meaningful posture in the best interest of Grenada.
A good and lasting commitment on the side of the Prime Minister that could enhance his new approach is to get his new government to enact “A Freedom of Information Act” that is in existence in some Caribbean islands in which journalists are legally entitled to get information
on the activities of government when official requests are made.