Grenada was again in the international spotlight in another very negative vein.
A report put out by the well-known media watchdog group known as “Reporters Without Borders” singled out the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) for engaging in censorship of information on the island.
This is a damning condemnation of a media entity which is regarded globally as the face of the media in the Spice Isle.
In its latest bulletin, Reporters Without Borders had this to say about the media in the Eastern Caribbean under the headline, “Political Influence On OECS Media Cited In Global Report”
“A new report released by Reporters Without Borders asserts that ‘many media outlets’ in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are under the direct influence of politicians, especially during elections.
The organisation’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index says it’s because officials can withdraw state advertising at any time and deprive them of income they depend on.
“In some of the Islands, political parties even own or have major shares in media companies, compromising journalistic independence,” it noted.
The report asserts that authorities are also monitoring social networks more and more closely, which encourages a degree of self-censorship.
“In 2018, reports of editorial censorship by the general manager of the Grenada Broadcasting Network brought into question the journalistic independence enjoyed by reporters working for Grenada’s largest media network,” it observed.
The publication expressed the view that Journalism is not a prestige profession in the countries that are members of the OECS.
“They receive little training and often abandon media work because it is so badly paid, an issue that particularly affects female journalists in the region,” it stated. The OECS slipped 15 places in the press freedom ranking to 50. It was at 35 in 2018. One hundred and eighty countries are listed in the latest World Press Freedom Index”.
The fact that GBN is being cited for media censorship in Grenada should immediately attract the majority shareholders of the company who are primarily the operators of the major media houses in the Caribbean such as the Express newspaper in Trinidad, Nation newspaper in Barbados, and the Jamaica Gleaner.
The history would show that these were the very media houses that led the onslaught against the leftwing People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) during the 1979-83 period of the Grenada Revolution for curtailment of press freedom and human rights abuses.
The Bishop regime was constantly under attack by these media giants in the English-speaking Caribbean especially after it closed down the independent Torchlight newspaper in Grenada.
THE NEW TODAY would want to believe that the majority owners of GBN will be forced to look at the manoeuvres taking place at GBN by its minority partner which is the Government of Grenada currently run by the New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The message is clear for those of us in Grenada who understands what is happening on the ground, is that the NNP administration is having its way with the operations of GBN and bringing the organisation into disrepute and that the Majority shareholders need to pay closer attention to what is happening at this media entity.
The older heads like Harold Hoyte of the Barbados Nation, Ken Gordon who was associated with the Express newspaper and the other veteran journalists associated with these major players in the regional media would not be happy about censorship involving GBN or any free press in the Caribbean.
These veterans would have fought for most of their working life for a free and totally independent press not only in the region but globally.
THE NEW TODAY is fully aware that not only GBN but most of the other media houses on the island are engaged in direct and indirect censorship of information due to governmental pressure and interference.
There are constant reports that the NNP Political Directorate is using the Ministry of Finance to pressure certain media houses who owe taxes to the State to fall in line or else pay the price or face the necessary consequences.
A former NNP Cabinet Minister openly stated that a certain religious figure who was a major tax collector for government and supporter of the regime was often used as the “hatchet man” against media houses who were in default of payment of taxes to the Treasury.
The NNP has also taken advantage of the low salaries paid by some media houses to its workers by sending them a host of government-paid Imani workers to help them man their operations.
The Imani workers are not only untrained but only an ignorant person would not understand where their loyality lies – clearly with one of the 15 NNP Members of Parliament who recruited them into the Imani programme.
This newspaper can report without fear of contradiction the attitude of some of the untrained journalists and a few senior ones with a clear political line to the NNP when certain so-called offensive questions are asked of Government ministers at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefings.
It is nothing but shameful the behaviour of these “posers” in the media who are nothing but a disgrace to the professionals who have passed our way – the likes of T.A Marryshow, Alister Hughes and Leslie Seon who knew what it was to be called a fearless independent member of the media profession.
It is against this background that THE NEW TODAY would like to see the majority shareholders of GBN seriously address the concern expressed by Reporters Without Borders and to remove the suspicion that they are only interested in profit and financial returns from their Grenada operation.