Thursday, April 4, 2013

Editorial: Media must put national interest first

The adjournment of the debate in the Senate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill gives the government time to consider the various areas of concerns raised not only by legislators but by commentators and citizens.

It also creates an opportunity for a national conversation on the matter that would involve citizens and the various organisations, politicians and interest groups that are for and against the proposed legislation that would give soldiers the power of arrest.

As would be expected in any debate on such a serious issue there will be partisan interests, which raises the question of the role of the media in this debate.

Every democracy relies on a free and fair media to keep checks on the system and to hold all the primary definers of society to account. Through free, fair, truthful and balanced reporting, the media help shape public opinion from which citizens make decisions on important national issues.

It is no secret that some media have an editorial bias. Strange as it may seem, this is acceptable so long as the media uphold their pledge to obey journalistic best practices and the industry’s code of ethics.

The media must also recognise that freedom comes responsibility and part of that responsibility is to mirror the society, to present all sides of a debate so that people could form an opinion from which they can act. The media have a responsibility to ensure that no voice is silenced; even dissenters have a right to freedom of thought and expression.

Whatever partisan interests the media have must be second to the national interest. It's not OK to present a biased view of things, to go cherry picking with vital information and to distort reality. When media engage in such behaviour they abdicate their responsibility to citizens and do irreparable damage to the community they serve.

The adjourment of Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill presents a splendid opportunity for the media in T&T to demonstrate that they can fulfill their role as a fourth estate and that they can act on behalf of citizens. This does not mean they have to support the bill; what it means is they have to present all the relevant facts so that people would be able to decide.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai