WHATEVER is going on with House Speaker Halson Moultrie?
He seems to have taken against the media for some reason – and told Parliament yesterday that the media is “descending” to a certain level, and that it must be addressed.
Startling words indeed to be spoken within the walls where our laws are made – what is he suggesting?
What is even more startling is that he offered up this condemnation of the nation’s media – saying that “fake” and opinionated stories are being published online and in local newspapers – without offering any evidence.
Where are the examples you are talking about, Mr Moultrie?
Earlier yesterday, he had been agitated because a Nassau Guardian reporter had taken photographs of Chester Cooper MP during his contribution to Parliament yesterday, citing a ban on cellphone use in the House. He ordered the reporter to turn over her phone and for the images to be deleted, telling her she must “have that portion of the video that you just recorded deleted from your cell phone”.
The reporter had not taken video, but still images – so accuracy was not Mr Moultrie’s strength in that moment.
He went on to say: “I can imagine the press demonising the speaker as a person who is trying to prevent freedom of speech and freedom of expression and so forth, but I am of the view and I’ll say this for the record that the media, despite all the change in technology, has descended to a level in this country that needs to be addressed.
“They are competing with social media and as a consequence a number of false reports, fake reports and opinionated stories are appearing in the newspapers and I (have) even seen on social media videos of members of Parliament that have been taken completely out of context and other information presented on social media.”
All very stirring, indeed, Mr Moultrie, but we cannot help but wonder why our telephone hasn’t received a call from you about such a concern before you take it to the walls of government. Which stories are you worried about, Mr Moultrie?
Mr Moultrie has, of course, had his own awkward moments in the media himself recently.
Last month, he hosted a courtesy call with the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China – and recommended that China consider developing the south-east Bahamas to shift the population concentration away from the north-west.
“I gave my personal recommendations to the Chinese that perhaps one of the considerations as we move forward in a joint development of both nations to look at the possibility of developing the south-east Bahamas,” he said.
When people raised eyebrows at him making such suggestions, he bridled and said he was simply stating his personal views – although it seems odd to state personal views in the context of an official courtesy call from a Chinese delegation in his capacity as speaker.
He said he wasn’t begging the Chinese for anything and he wasn’t suggesting turning over part of the country to the Chinese. Indeed, he wasn’t – but no one was suggesting he had.
If there are two characteristics one would hope for from a speaker, they would be keeping a cool head and dealing with matters even-handedly, requiring evidence for any allegations.
Mr Moultrie seems to be failing on that latter count – one cannot cry fake news without providing evidence of your claim. To do so reduces the public trust in the media across the board – and that is a blow to democracy as a whole.
So show us you have a cool head, Mr Moultrie, and back up your words – or like you tried to do when caught in a possible gaffe with international relations, take them back.
Fake news thrives in a climate where people are not required to back up their words with evidence. Don’t become part of the fake news culture yourself, Mr Moultrie.