Politicians visit irrational fears upon local media

More and more people are joining the impassioned debate about how the SLP administration has discarded its pretty-face mask to intimidate the perceived unfriendly media personnel. The not so secret bee in their red bonnets is that there’s “too much UWP” in the news. That, despite that the party has its own shows on radio and TV, and I’m not referring to NTN and RSL.

Clearly the ongoing tension between the SLP administration and the local media does not make for a healthy democracy. Considering all that is already ongoing under this administration, in terms of IMPACS, sanctions under the Leahy Law, allegations of extra-judicial killings, Human Rights violations and the like, the last thing Helen needs right now is a new scar on her face.

Media workers association executive seen here last week strategizing ahead of a planned extraordinary meeting scheduled for this Sunday April 24 to discuss the current media climate.

Media workers association executive seen here last week strategizing ahead of a planned extraordinary meeting scheduled for this Sunday April 24 to discuss the current media climate.

Sadly the public has just seen another week go by without the smallest attempts at arriving at mediation and reconciliation. If anything, perhaps all the watchful electorate has seen are increasingly unhelpful signs of paranoia on the part of party hacks.

Can there not be a meeting of both sides to seek to bring all the existing issues to the table by engaging in constructive dialogue? Lawsuits, war of words, mistrust and obvious political immaturity demonstrated by some public officials have been the order of the day. Meanwhile more and more local incumbents are looking like bullies.

It has long been said that the media and politicians make strange bedfellows. In 1997 Dr. Kenny Anthony was not deterred by such words of practical wisdom. He was the ever-gracious host of many media cocktails, rubbing shoulders with them whilst sipping libations in an easygoing atmosphere.

Perhaps at the time he was having some feeling or vestige of gratitude towards the media for its contribution to his party’s landslide 16–1 victory against the United Workers Party. It may also have been as a result of being very chummy with the media that the Labour Party bought into the belief that the news media can either make you or break you. Did they learn too much about media workings at those cocktails? Meanwhile politicians remain at liberty to correct anything they believe was unfairly reported about them.

There is always room for the public to accept or reject information. The same news audience that the media may “mislead” also freely consumes information from other sources such as In Touch and The Red Zone, unashamedly red. Brainwashing can never thrive in a democracy and is not at the core of this media/SLP quarrel. The troubling accusation that the media is not being fair and balanced really has no merit. Yes, the media influences politics and political behaviour, in Saint Lucia and elsewhere. A free press is not automatically an irresponsible press. The media has no control over how people process the information that comes at them. People are free to decide for themselves between what they read and what they see.

This is an era of “news you can choose.” People have at their disposal, as never before, several options for informing themselves. They don’t really need the news to know what is happening. The traditional media is itself under pressure to keep its relevance with the advent of new media. Let’s hope the disgruntled politicians get an eye–opener of how powerful is the reach, speed and influence of new media especially in the case of social media.

Has the SLP administration understood the sheer power to Share, Like and Vent on one’s pages where hundreds or thousands view up to the minute; including family and friends who follow? This is the real power. Politicians should keep in mind that there is access to millions of apps and other platforms that people now utilize.

If politicians want the traditional media to report to suit them, then how will they (politicians) get social media to comply with the same expectation?

It is therefore reasonable to think that should our learned politicians hold any anxiety or worry whatsoever towards media reporting, then their concern should rest with social media. When it comes to traditional responsible media reporting – television, newspaper and radio – they should discontinue being driven by their baseless and irrational fears, associated with the so–called “silly seaon”.

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