A media house in Grenada chastised as “illegal” has been described as the one producing most popular and best reading newspaper in the country.
According to trade union representative in the Senate, Rae Roberts, the weekly NEW TODAY newspaper is a “must read” on Friday for even members of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
In his presentation made at a sitting of the Senate last week Friday, Sen. Roberts dismissed the most recent attacks on the newspaper by Prime Minister Mitchell and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Nickolas Steele who branded it as “illegal” and “a scandal sheet”.
He reminded those pointing fingers at the media house that the newspaper is duly registered with the Supreme Court Registry and was paying its fair share of taxes to the Ministry of Finance.
“…Our Prime Minister speaks about an illegal newspaper and scandal sheet. My research shows that all newspapers published here (Grenada) are legal,” Sen. Roberts told the Senate.
The trade unionist pointed out that the referred to as the scandal sheet “undoubtedly, it is the best newspaper in the country” and “it has news and I salute the brave workers who are committed to it”.
Roberts stressed that despite the attempt by some within the administration to tarnish the reputation of the newspaper, the fact of the matter is that Cabinet Ministers are among the first to get their personal copies for weekend reading.
“Cabinet Ministers – you can’t resist buying it come Friday – that’s the one paper you must read”, he told the Senate with a smile on the face.
Roberts, a well-respected media personality over the years, reminded the Senate that one of the hallmarks of the NNP-led government in its previous 13-year reign was its all out desire to conquer and manage the free media from behind the scene – and that enthusiasm is now resurrected.
He noted that the press is often condemned by the NNP even when it does it job and the ruling party has a well-known penchant for accusing the media of character assassination.
“This government leads the way in tarnishing the image of its people. Let’s go back to the operations of the failed First Bank International and other offshore companies (in which) North American workers and others lost millions of dollars – many of them pensioners – and this happened under Dr. Mitchell’s leadership”, he said.
“Government and others often use legal action to deter media workers from researching and reporting and that is a fact. I am hearing that one or two agents are exploring the possibility of legal action against the Media.
Clearly, that is to deter media coverage but colleague media workers, be brave, be influenced by the spirit of the late Alister Hughes in the 70s and my great friend Uncle Leslie (Pierre) who during the revolution – he even went to jail”, he added.
Roberts conceded that the local media have to be responsible and admitted that like politicians, “we do get things wrong – and like you politicians we sometimes fail to acknowledge our mistakes”.
“I say Mr. President in complete contrast to the Prime Minister, Grenada needs more newspapers that are critical and inquiring”, he remarked.
The trade union representative also used the Senate sitting to take issue with journalists who have in recent years turned their backs on the importance of press freedom for high pay with the State.
“Unfortunately, some of my colleague journalists who ought to know better have chosen to ignore the cause of the free media all because the money is right – forget the principle!
“Most interesting – Two years ago – one of the now high paid media workers was protesting across Grenada and the Caribbean, claiming that the then Prime Minister was allegedly interfering in the media, and calling for solidarity and support.
“Today that worker and a few others ignore completely the overwhelming evidence, which was reflected in the Electronics Crime Bill re – the media – None said a word in the media! ”
This is a clear reference to Rawle Titus, the current head of the Government Information Service (GIS) who had a much-publicised run-in with former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
Roberts said it took the efforts of the International Press institute and others to educate Grenadians about the dangers Sections 6,16, and 25 of the Electronic Crimes Bill will pose to free speech.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the response from President of the Media Workers of Grenada (MWAG), Sherry-Ann Noel and institutions such as the Grenada Bar Association and the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GCIC) and others for remaining silent while the Mitchell government sought to use its political powers to frighten media workers and the population.
“I want to say to the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique do not ignore the evils of politicians. It comes in many forms. The politician with a monopoly on power, an ambition to (be) the master of the people first strikes at the media. You control the media – you win public opinion. Of the 15 FM stations on AIR, the vast majority has one culture – And I have no doubt, absolutely no doubt that it is a goal of our current political directorate – control and control!”
“Mr. President, I listened to the Honorable Prime Minister’s defense of the (controversial) sections in the (Electronic Crime Bill) legislation and he could not hide his desire to silence media critics or frightening them into submission”.