'Minister's plans to buy newspapers undemocratic'
PLANS by National Security Minister Jack Warner to acquire shares in two local newspapers were "unfortunate" and undemocratic, says executive director of the Centre for Law and Democracy Toby Mendel.
"I think it's not in the spirit of democracy for ministers to do that kind of thing," he says.
Mendel, a human rights lawyer and head of the Centre for Law and Democracy, a Canada-based international human rights NGO, stressed that senior political figures should seek to distance themselves not only from media business interests but all business interests.
"They sit in Cabinet, they're in a position to influence all of the main policies and directions of the country which would impact on their businesses and that puts them in a potential conflict of interest," he said.
Mendel continued: "And ideally they should actually put their businesses at arms length to themselves...before they go into politics and they shouldn't actively pursue businesses that they may be able to privilege through their policy making powers."
Mendel stressed that the case was "four times stronger" for media businesses as they are central to the democratic process. He said it would be difficult to design rules to regulate this issue but "probably it was more about making politicians pay at the ballot box for their behaviour". Mendel noted, however, that by buying the media they then affect the way the ballot box works. —JN