Time for People of Substance To Stand up and be Counted

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was standing on solid ground at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort, Tobago when he argued  that “there must be context” in Journalism.

He was speaking last Monday (August 15) in his self-appointed role as “ a geologist…  (with)  40 years in electoral politics (who)  has been closely observing the media”.

Rowley was at the time  delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union’s 53rd General Assembly and Caribbean Media Awards.

In doing so, this Tobago Ah We Boy who vaulted from Mason Hall to Whitehall , was offering his people  a few precious gems from his treasury of wisdom painfully generated out of four decades of experience in a world of  much deprivation but of great personal resolve to overcome all the odds and, like the motto of his People’s National Movement party, “Prevail!”.

It’s with a certain amount of significance therefore, that a number of events have occurred around the same time as PM Rowley spoke at the Caribbean Awards ceremony, namely:

  • The visit by Guyana President Dr Irfaan Ali to Trinidad and Tobago for five days;
  • The TT Government’s passing of Legislation banning the export of scrap iron, much to the consternation of  the local representative group;
  • Another upsurge in the rate of apparently senseless murders by persons who engage in drive by shootings while some “get away on foot”;
  • Jack Warner’s  weekly Sunshine newspaper broke through with a new look and writers promising to make an impact on the media scene; and
  • A quiet visit was made by Energy Minister Stuart Young to Venezuelan President Nicola’s Maduro where they discussed matters relevant to the mutual interest of both countries.

In short, what occurred was a culmination of the highest and most intensive kind of communications exercises both at person-to-person and technical levels, towards fully exploring the closest and deepest possibilities of connection possible as part of the bonding or “trust” needed for people to go forward as on.

It was most exhilarating therefore to observe how Dr Ali – of East Indian ethnicity – and Afro-Trinidadian  Dr Rowley both segued between each other as they deftly dealt with diverse topics coming their way, like generals in charge of  armies with which they were working with for a long time.

Significantly, it was Dr Ali who stressed on the importance of Trust in his presentation.

In a similar vein, former United National Congress (UNC) government communications honcho Ken Ali appears to have made an easy move into the newspaper  stable of former PP (People’s Partnership) government Minister and disgraced FIFA boss Jack Warner without a hint of embarrassment.

And look at how the ubiquitous Stuart Young, who once looked after the national security of the country, is now protecting our interests in the areas of oil, gas and energy: from which a great deal of the money derived will be used to deal with our worrying criminal elements and the holistic health of our nation. 

So it would have most likely been against that background that TT Prime Minister Rowley would have expressed concern about the model of journalism he says he sees being widely practised.

“It is the journalism of ‘publish and be damned’, gotcha!, or simply, ‘he say/she said that’—all largely without context or recorded history”, he stated

“A listener, reader or viewer is not helped or educated in the democratic process when a journalist has a story, then searches for a counterpoint. Full stop. That is it! There must be a context, a wider, deeper background within, and to that story, which helps the receiver,” the prime minister said. 

He stressed journalism today must also go beyond the limits where “attempts to reach Mr/Mrs so-and-so for comment failed”.

In other words, unlike the hard-working, visionary dedicated leaders who are displaying serious commitment to move the nation and the region forward, most of our reporters are a bunch of lazy news collectors contented with feeding from the bottom of the supply trough and avoiding the hard work by closing with the attribution of a “No comment” or “Could not be contacted” cap on an  otherwise very important story.

The Guyana President  put it very nicely at the Media Conference which followed the historic meeting of Guyana and T+T Heads today (August 18), when he advised one reporter how misinformed the reporter had revealed himself to be in terms of regional finance issues with special reference to the Trinidad and Tobago-based Republic Bank which, Ali advised, was one of the largest investors in Guyana.

Ali also animatedly slapped the Media people on the wrists with his marked Guyanese accent by telling one reporter “And I’ll answer the question you’re about to ask me by informing you beforehand…” A gesture which might have greatly pleased his T+T counterpart who had told the Magdalena gathering:

“I believe that journalists, in what is loosely called the developing world, should see it, in their professional charge, to focus, investigate, interpret, educate and report on the development processes of their countries. They must take ownership and be guardians; and given the Caribbean’s history, they must be understanding and sympathetic to the realistic challenges of the fledgling development processes”

The lesson is clear: we must learn how to walk the talk and sing from the same hymn book, if we are to succeed in our  noble ventures as a people. We cannot afford to be moving along with social and political dismantling artists and chronic corrupters like the Leave my Indian name alone-obsessed Kamla and her wrecking crew stabbing us in the backs and sides while claiming to be patriots.

Rowley, in Tobago and with Guyana’s Irfaan Ali in Trinidad, was sending a message of great resolve and hope for all our people who must Do as I say and  Do as I do!, if we are to emerge as the gold standard nation we are capable of showing the world we can be.

That is, complete with our President dancing in a daintily sensuous, Trini Soka woman style to the sweet music of the steel pan on a Tobago stage.

In this connection, we are happy to close with words of warning from TT Prime Minister Rowley to the Caribbean Media in Tobago.

“We in Trinidad and Tobago not only created the steel pan, calypso, soca music, but, in part, are responsible most regrettably for the modern-day popularisation of misinformation and disinformation,” he said.

Noting that this is the era of the “knowledge society and universal digitalization”, Rowley said he believed it demands that journalists re-frame their current model of reporting and delivering the news within the framework of media information literacy, so that readers, viewers and listeners could trust that their product is one of quality, ethically-framed, worthy of attention and reflecting the Caribbean condition.”

Nuff Said!

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