The Prime Minister’s shutdown of journalist Darren Bahaw at Saturday’s news conference was misguided, based on factual errors, intemperate and unbefitting the leader of a democratic country.
In a scene straight out of the Trump playbook for handling challenging media questions, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley shouted down the journalist as he attempted to question him about his due diligence prior to appointing Reginald Armour as Attorney General, saying “I advise you, don’t go any further.”
In defending his refusal to entertain Bahaw’s question, the PM revealed that he has had the journalist in his craw for over 15 years. It all has to do with the headline and photograph accompanying Bahaw’s report of Dr Rowley’s first court appearance in his Landate lawsuit. That report was published in this newspaper on February 13, 2007. He was bringing it up now, he said, to point out “the role that the media plays when there is malice”.
Malice being a heavy charge to throw at a media house or a journalist, this newspaper is emphatic in stating that, in this particular matter, the elephant memory of which Dr Rowley had boasted at the same news conference had clearly failed him.
Contrary to Dr Rowley’s assertion, the headline was not “Rowley appears in court”; it was in fact “Rowley makes first court showing in Landate matter”. Having fixated on an imaginary headline, Dr Rowley proceeded to draw his own unique inference, saying “when somebody ‘appears in court’ you know what that means? It means that they were taken to court for some criminal matter.” Well, actually, no.
Dr Rowley also took umbrage with the fact that the journalist had waited for him to emerge from court and took a photograph of him “coming out with the bars in front of me…”
We refuse to believe that Dr Rowley is unfamiliar with the routine practice of media stake-outs of news personalities. The work of professional journalism often requires long days and even nights outside the courts and it would be to Bahaw’s credit that he waited to get his photo. On Saturday he showed that same professionalism when he kept his composure under the PM’s berating, insistently and politely posing his question to Dr Rowley.
As for the photo that so troubled Dr Rowley because of the bars, we merely point out that the metal barriers installed around the Hall of Justice during the Carnival period is problematic for media photographers, too. They would far prefer a clear line of vision, especially with just seconds to get their shot.
Dr Rowley’s attack on Bahaw was doubly puzzling because reporters are not responsible for headline-writing and photo selections. Interestingly, the PM cited no problem with the report itself which had properly contextualised his presence in court that day as his first appearance “in his effort to strike out a report which forms the basis of an ongoing criminal investigation into the Landate affair.”
At the end of Dr Rowley’s outburst, the journalist’s question remains to be answered: In appointing Reginald Armour as Attorney General, did Dr Rowley conduct a thorough due diligence?