Shameless attack on media
In the dying days of the Patrick Manning administration, People's National Movement (PNM) spokespersons accused the media in general, and the Express in particular, of being biased against their party and favouring the fledgling People's Partnership. Now, not even halfway through its term of office, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration is alleging pro-PNM agendas by the media.
All that this reveals, of course, is that the media were doing their job during the last PNM regime, and have continued to do so with the People's Partnership one. But, if there is any difference in the allegations of bias made by the PNM and the People's Partnership, it is that spokespersons for the latter have decided to make nasty personal remarks against reporters who have written stories which aroused the politicians' ire.
National Security Minister Jack Warner, in the Government's PR panel talk last Wednesday, dropped innuendoes about Express investigative reporter Asha Javeed. On the Internet, meanwhile, Government officials and/or their lackeys have indulged in what is most accurately described as fish-market gossip about Guardian reporter Denyse Renne, who wrote a report on the early proclamation of Section 34 which now has the Government so exercised.
Now if the media's reports are inaccurate or libellous, politicians always have recourse to the courts. That should be sufficient remedy. But the fact that the People's Partnership's leading spokespersons do not see this as sufficient suggests a certain desperation of mind. Minister Warner denied his statements about the media were a threat, but this is a man who holds the National Security portfolio and, as he himself revealed, hired a photographer to stand outside the Opposition Leader's constituency office all night in order to get a picture to score cheap political points on flooding.
In response, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) warned yesterday, "If this trend is not rapidly checked, the association fears a trend of organised personal attacks against journalists will eventually damage the ability of the media to report fearlessly, undermine the functioning of the media—which is fundamental to all democracies—and ultimately weaken the rights of all citizens."
When politicians start attacking the media, it is generally a sign of desperation. Even as they vehemently deny being seriously concerned about Section 34 fallout, the Partnership is holding an expensive "pre-budget rally" today—claiming its supporters asked for one—and plans to have a weekly repeat of last Wednesday night's "discussion" on the pretext that the rum shop talk spouted by the five participants is an exercise in democracy.
But it is the media who safeguard democracy from the other three estates and, if the People's Partnership regime continues its attacks in this vein, citizens will know what its stance on democracy really is.