“Every politician who has tasted power, and many who counted for little, has gone to war with the media. If they didn’t, that would signal that journalists were not doing their jobs, that they were too busy prostrating to power to do their duty to country.”

—Raffique Shah,

March 30, 2013.

The media do more than report the news of the world and local events. They influence our world view and distortions may arise if the picture presented is unrepresentative of the reality.

We see it in the coverage of the ongoing US protests, where the focus is placed on actions of the small proportion of looters amidst the mass voices against police brutality. Subtle non-verbal cues have been shown to influence voting outcomes.

It is important to examine the recent statement by Dr Keith Rowley about the “agenda” of the local media and their firm rebuttal.

Is Shah’s statement valid? There have been two seminal historical events that bear examination.

Dr Eric Williams’s famous burning of the Guardian newspaper, as part of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Colonialism” on April 22, 1960 in the fight for Chaguaramas is instructive and resonates in the light of the recent Venezuelan discussion.

Palmer (2006) describes the shenanigans then of both the UK and US governments. The April 23 Guardian editorial described Dr Williams as “Hitler”.

The opposition split with S Capildeo describing Lionel Seukeran, Faris Al-Rawi’s grandfather, and other opposition politicians of “being traitors” because of their support of Dr Williams.

Was the Roman Catholic Church’s attempt to undermine him partially the reason for the birth and rise of the Pentecostal wing?

Would there have been an Express in 1967, after the Guardian’s purchase of the Daily Mirror (1963-66)?

The 1996 “constructive dismissal” of Mr Alwin Chow and resignation of editors from the Guardian irrevocably changed the landscape.

Jones P Madeira in explaining his resignation cited the role of public opinion in “fighting a good fight in the name of freedom of the press”.

In those circumstances, the 1987 editorial policy under the new owners was publicised, “The Guardian must maintain its independence without forgetting the fact that it is part of a conglomerate; that it should not be politically aligned…that such tensions as might arise…should not result in an adversarial posture…”

Mr Basdeo Panday, ten weeks in office, had accused the PNM of plotting violence, a charge not supported by then minister Joseph Theodore.

He banned Guardian’s Ms Nicole Duke-Westfield from covering a meeting with the then Venezuelan ambassador.

The Guardian photograph of him with a glass in hand and the headline were deemed “racist”, triggering Chow’s dismissal.

The Express, in turn, called the Guardian “spineless”.

The fight continued over the US-promoted “Ship Rider Agreement” which Mr Panday signed without Caricom support.

Then came the slugfest over the proposed Green Paper, designed to manage the media, which ended in a 2000 court order for Mr Panday to pay $696,854 to Ken Gordon for calling him a “pseudo-racist”.

It was Denyse Renne, then of the Guardian, who broke the 2012 Section 34 story, tumbling that administration.

Is the legacy media still “independent and fearless”? With the ascendancy of social media blogs, is Dr Rowley’s gaze appropriate? Is social media supplanting the legacy media’s role? Is this good for public opinion and democracy?

Noble Philip

Blue Range

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