Daily Express Editorial

Over a career of 44 years Oliver Clarke built a reputation as one of the Caribbean’s most fearless media magnates.

As executive chairman of the Jamaica Gleaner Group, he stood up to every government of Jamaica going back to Michael Manley in the 1970s and never hesitated when asked to lend his incisive mind and shrewd negotiating charm to pitched battles between the media and governments of the Caribbean.

In 1996, he was one of the four-member team of Caribbean media leaders to stage an intervention when the Basdeo Panday government launched a campaign against the Trinidad Guardian demanding the firing of its editor-in-chief. With Ken Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago, and the late David De Caires of Guyana and Harold Hoyte of Barbados, he was a formidable resource for journalists and independent media houses across the English-speaking Caribbean.

An unapologetic flag-bearer for free enterprise, Clarke bristled at the socialist notion of developmental journalism linked to government objectives. In the late 1970s this led to a the famous showdown between the Gleaner and the Manley administration in which the prime minister himself led a march around the Gleaner’s offices.

Along with his publishing peers, Clarke also took on the Maurice Bishop-led People’s Revolutionary Government of Grenada after it shut down several private newspapers and jailed journalist Alister Hughes.

The late 1970s-early 80s was a period of sharp ideological differences between socialist-leaning governments and the captains of private sector media in the Anglophone Caribbean during which Clarke and his fellow publishers were routinely pilloried as CIA agents. Clarke remained undaunted, all the while strengthening his relationship with the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA).

In the late 1990s, as president of IAPA, Clarke led the lobby to get Caribbean governments to sign on to the Declaration of Chapultepec which set out ten fundamental principles of press freedom. In T&T his efforts failed with then PM Basdeo Panday who refused to sign, accusing the media of disseminating “lies, half-truths, and innuendos”. Eventually, in 2002, Panday’s successor Patrick Manning signed the declaration.

As executive chairman of the Gleaner, Clarke was an entrepreneur who promoted growth through expansion into diasporic markets in the UK, US and Canada. In 2004, he led the purchase of The Voice, a UK newspaper with strong readership among the Black community. Later, as traditional media began to feel the impact of online technology, Clarke led the Gleaner Co Ltd into a merger with the Radio Jamaica Communications Group led by Lester Spaulding, creating a multi-media powerhouse. Seeing the signs of change, he also made a significant investment in online media.

As an advocate for greater public access to government-held information, Oliver Clarke was a tireless lobbyist for freedom of information legislation which was achieved in 2002 when Jamaica’s parliament passed the Access to Information Act.

More personally to this newspaper, Oliver Clarke was a courageous friend on whom the Express could depend. He understood very deeply the need for regional solidarity in every battle where press freedom was threatened. He served his country, the Caribbean and the cause of press freedom with excellence. We will be forever indebted to him.

Our sympathies to his family and to the wider Gleaner family.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

The first lesson of the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be already forgotten. In the mad rush to secure their own vaccine supplies through bilateral deals with the pharmaceutical majors, the richer nations of the world are flexing their influence and financial muscle while crowding out and marginalising smaller and poorer nations.

MY title is not a reference to outgoing United States President Donald Trump. We have heard so much commentary describing him as a flawed individual, and we have indeed been presented with recent evidence which has borne this out, that such a title would have been quite apt.

Recent events in Washington, DC, USA, the revered capital of the United States of America, have shaken the moral authority of that country to lecture, threaten and coerce other countries in the name of democracy, rule of law and human rights.

The disgraceful scenes of Americans storming their own sacred Capitol building—the long-claimed sanctuary for democracy—was bad enough, but what preceded it was worse.

I WANT to thank you, Alisyn Camerota, broadcast journalist and CNN anchor for the autographed copy of your book Amanda Wakes Up. The story of Amanda’s struggles are those that represent the same for most, if not all of us and hits home in the most profound way. I enjoyed following Amanda’s journey. Well done!

POPE FRANCIS’ decision on Monday to allow women to perform some altar duties during Roman Catholic Mass is a welcomed, but tentative, move away from anachronistic gender stereotypes. But not fast enough.

Man proud man/Dressed in a little brief authority/ Most ignorant of what he is most assured

—(Shakespeare: Measure for Measure)

On Wednesday as I sat with a mix of fear and hope and awaited the outcome of a clinical procedure I had to undergo in 24 hours, I became more aware of how small and vulnerable we all are in the larger scheme of things, that however confident and proud we may feel about our status that we are all subject to the vicissitudes of life, continuing as if there were no tomorrow