Former Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell is trying to repair his image with the media in Grenada by promising them greater freedom to do their work without hindrance if his New National Party (NNP) was re-elected back into office in the upcoming general elections.
Addressing a public meeting of his party at the Telescope Playing Field last week Sunday, Dr. Mitchell sought to assure.
Media practitioners that under a new administration by the NNP, they will not be intimidated when carrying out their job.
During his 13-year rule between 1995 and 2008, Dr. Mitchell had taken out a record number of lawsuits against local newspapers and journalists.
One of those lawsuits sought to get a local court to impose a prison sentence on a charge of criminal libel brought against former Editor of the now defunct GRENADA TODAY newspaper, George Worme.
With the case bogged down in the court system, the former Prime Minister retaliated by forcing the sitting Chief Magistrate, Patricia Mark to proceed on retirement after she allegedly resisted his moves to force her to cut short the Preliminary Inquiry into the matter against Worme and send the matter up to the high court for trial before a judge and jury.
Mitchell also filed a lawsuit against Worme and GRENADA TODAY in connection with an article written by Iranian-born Steve Fassihi in which he alleged that the former Prime Minister had brought in crooks and criminals posing as investors into the country.
Mitchell was able to succeed with the lawsuit since at the time none of the controversial investors had been sentenced to jail term for their alleged crimes.
The former Prime Minister proceeded to enforce his judgement against the newspaper and forced it to close down two years ago.
The closure of the newspaper in 2009 saw the immediate unemployment of six persons who had been employed with the company for in some cases since the inception of the newspaper in 1990.
In a clear attempt to woo voters into believing that he was a changed man, Dr. Mitchell told supporters last Sunday that the media have as role to play and will not interfere with them and cause anyone to loose their jobs.
“There is no profession in this country that is without sin. Under an NNP government my friends, we are not going to spend our time in doing everything to make people whose profession it is to bring news and information to the people to go around and try to make them try to loose their jobs”, he said.
“No media person will be afraid of the New National Party’s government. (The) media have a right to bring proper information and it (has) a responsibility to educate and inform and there are in-fact weaknesses there, but that weakness does not give any government the right to attack individual media person and to go and try to make them be on the breadline, my friends. The NNP government will respect that right to earn their livelihood my friends”, he added.
Apart from THE GRENADA TODAY newspaper, Dr. Mitchell was often criticised when in government for engaging in tactics of intimidation against media practitioners.
The NNP government was cited for being involved in the distribution of leaflets accusing journalists Linda Straker and Rawle Titus of working for the main opposition (then National Democratic Congress) party, and the deportation of Jamaican Journalist, Tenesha Thomas who arrived to cover the country’s 2008 general election.
Prime Minister Mitchell and NNP also filed lawsuits against GBN, as well as talk show hosts, Stanley Charles and Eddy Frederick in connection with allegations that the regime was engaged in a plot to assassinate the resigned Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Raphael Fletcher.
In addition, the NNP was accused of being involved in the forced resignation of News Director of GBN, Odette Campbell in protest at a one-week suspension imposed on her for objecting to government’s threats to prosecute anyone who put out reports that Mitchell was corrupt in the face of the US$500, 000.00 Switzerland bribery issue.
The Opposition Leader told supporters that hope is coming under an NNP led government since the NDC is already history as they have destroyed themselves.
“They have shown the people who they actually are”, he said, “Hope coming soon my friends, hope in the New National Party”.
According to Dr. Mitchell, the NNP first order of priority when if it is returned to office will be to unite the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
“When the election is over the NNP will be concentrating on national unity, bringing everybody together to build Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”, he said.
“We are going to do away with the politics of divisiveness … There will be no attack under the New National Party’s next government, on investors local and foreign”, despite their affiliation to an opposition party or not,” he added.
General elections are constitutionally due in Grenada in 2013.