Monday, November 18, 2013

Freedom & Responsibility of the Press... by Phillip Edward Alexander

This commentary below has been reproduced unedited from the blog PLAIN TALK by Phillip Edward Alexander:

In her column this week entitled 'Holding the Line' Sunity Maharaj took to task those whom she saw as having launched an undeserving 'political' attack against Express journalist Asha Javeed and recommended to the soon to be young mother that she retreats into the cocoon of birthing for respite, even as she and the father of her unborn child squares off on opposite sides of mounting allegations of what may well turn out to be one of the most shocking abuses of journalistic power ever to rear its head in T&T. 

It seems in her zeal to close ranks as journalist, woman and mother, Sunity might have overlooked the real drivers or motives behind the described attack and it this I want to address.

According to information already within the public domain, the journalist in question is rumored to have or is suspected to have a material interest in a Company (through her unborn child's father) that is attempting to or has attempted to obtain a multi- million dollar contract from State owned National Quarries, and that she may have used her position as journalist to attempt to force the contract into being signed. 

That she wrote eight hard hitting articles against the same organization over the course of two months while being a party to a Company seeking to do business with the same organization should raise eyebrows if not flags, and, as it would be hard for Sunity to not be aware of these allegations, I find it surprising that not once in her article did she call for any enquiry of any kind (internal or otherwise) at the very least, yet in the same article without so much as a charge much less an investigation she labels public officials as being 'Unfit For public Office' or 'UFO's' (her abbreviation).

What was that, professional bias? Ingrained prejudice?

When you add to this the fact that Express Consulting Editor Lennox Grant had recommended earlier that an enquiry be conducted into the matter when it first broke into the public domain, or that complaints were also made against the same journalist (by a former Mayor no less) for “attempting to use her position as a reporter for personal business,” we find ourselves at a place where the smoke can no longer be ignored. Whatever comes out of this will be determined by others, but we are bound at this point to insist on an enquiry into these allegations if for no other reason than to clear the air.

Where is the Media Association of Trinidad & Tobago in all of this?

Where is the much promised journalistic code of ethics that would prescribe the necessary actions in circumstances such as these?

The Ethics Committee?

And what of the Publishers and Broadcasters Association? Are they not even a little bit concerned?

Halfway through the article takes a sharp turn to the politics and seems to want to link all that is wrong with what passes for politics in this country and it is here that Sunity and I part ways. I have been told so many times that 'the people get the government they deserve' that I understand it to mean that government is a reflection of the electorate that put them into Office. 

We can no more distance ourselves from their actions or behavior as we can from our own and blaming the government of the day excuses us of our responsibility as citizens in a democracy and I will have no part in that. As Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin and Eric Williams all told us, democracy only works when the people do their part, and it is this lack of social responsibility that has allowed every abuse since independence to take place.

Back to the opening point. Sunity, clearly nothing here was political or politically motivated and this smokescreen should not be allowed to wash. What is alleged to have taken place here, if proven true was at the very least a criminal act.

We are beyond the idea of sacred cows now and if I were to give you any advice it would be to not waste your moment in time or squander the respect the people have developed for you sweating for other people's fever. Surely you must be aware that assaults from within do more to harm the media than any external attack could simply because they undermine the integrity of the media and the people's trust.

Trying to spin right out of wrong here could never be an option.

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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