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Free press and freedom of speech

EDITOR, The Tribune.

PLEASE allow me a little space in your esteemed publication to express a few thoughts on the recent remarks made by Prime Minister Philip Davis on how the media reports on murder cases in the Bahamas.

Permit me to say at once that the press, inclusive of the print and electronic media, are absolutely free to gather and present the news, good and bad, as they determine best, having regard to space limitations and the commercial realities in a very competitive environment.

In my humble view, Davis, too, is absolutely free to offer his suggestions, and indeed, criticism of the way the media reports and presents stories on crime. That is his right and the right of any ordinary citizen who wishes to put forward an opinion on the matter.

As I understand it, the prime minister was merely indicating his views on how the media reported and presented stories on murders in particular and the impact it might have internationally on the country’s reputation as a safe tourist destination. All of this against the backdrop of the recent travel advisory issued by the American Embassy in the Bahamas.

His comments touched off a heated national debate. That is a good thing. It is healthy for our democracy. It is refreshing to see and hear different view points expressed with so much passion. The Bahamas Press Club also weighed in on the debate.

What I found curious was the stance taken by some of my friends in the media that the prime minister, in publicly expressing his criticisms, was attempting to dictate to the media how it should present reports of murders occurring in the country. There were cries of the prime minister attempting to interfere in media business.

I must confess, with all due respect to my media colleagues, that I am unable to follow their reasoning and conclusions. How does offering criticism of the way murder stories are presented amount to an attempt to dictate to the media? Is the media above criticism?

If I as a private citizen offer my views on the potential ramifications that prominently featured stories of murders are having on the country’s reputa-tion internationally, how does that equate to me attempting to dictate to the media, or interfere in media business?

I recall Sir Etienne Dupuch, who took me under his wings as a very young journalist in 1987. Sir Etienne would rip a man to shreds in his editorials. But he would always defend the man’s right to express an opinion. Agree or disagree, he, like his daughter, Eileen Dupuch-Carron after him, thought it was an undeniable right of a man to disagree passionately with his views.

I can’t count the number of times The Tribune was attacked publicly, and bitterly, for the way it reported and presented the news. So what Davis is suggesting now is nothing new. Under heavy fire from friend and foe alike, Sir Etienne simply shrugged it off as a part of the journalistic landscape and carried on valiantly.

The press is an essential watchdog. Any genuine attempt to interfere with its freedom of operation should be roundly and universally condemned. But what Davis suggested is a far, far, cry from any attempt at interference or intimidation. And, truth be told, there is substance and merit to what Davis is simply suggesting.

The press should expect criticism. Even sever criticism. That is a part and parcel of the territory. Just as the media is obliged to go to and fro in the Earth, and up and down in it, seeking to uncover the wrongs and the misdeeds of the good, the bad and the ugly, so too, it must expect and, indeed, welcome criticisms of its activities from an increasingly discerning public.

We have a free press and vibrant media. I am very happy to see the level of talent and intel-ligence displayed by our younger journalists especially. When I think of Tyler Symonette from Eyewitness News, Travis Carroll-Cartwright and Rachel Scott from the Nassau Guardian, Rashad Rolle and Lynaire Munnings at The Tribune; Berthony McDermott and the crew at Our News and Cleopatra Murphy and Romeko Knowles at ZNS, I am confidently hopeful for the future of journalism in this country.

This is not feigned praise. These young journalist have, in my opinion, displayed a level or analy-sis, intelligence and, above all, an independent journalistic spirit that is truly refreshing.

MARK ROLLE-SYMONETTE

Nassau

February 18, 2024

Comments

trueBahamian 4 months ago

It is good to have open dialogue but for a leader optics is very important. If the President of the US had made such a statement, he too would have been criticized by the media. Even putting aside the argument that he is leaning towards censorship, it is incredibly ridiculous to assume that the placement of an article impacts the global perception of the country. Governments have a duty to their citizens not to the Bahamas or.our PM. So, we can reasonably assume that they will have the facts no matter where an article is placed. In fact they have more information than the local.media can ever obtain. So, the PM, being the leader of this nation who interacts with other world.leaders knows this better than anyone else. So, why spend time mentioning this to anyone in the media. It seems more of a distraction from the real point, no.answer to crime, than anything else. We have a huge crime issue and an even larger economic failure. We continuously have deficits which further add to the national debt and we know what is the solution. Stevie Wonder can see that if we reduce the size of the Public Service we can get to a budget surplus. We just need a plan to get this done. So, again, the issue isn't the placement of articles it's cheap political tricks to distract from the failure of leadership.

Porcupine 4 months ago

Good letter. Yes, we need a good press. However, this doesn't refute the idea that our political choices have been, and continue to be, absolute disasters for our country. We live it everyday. Why do we not have a robust freedom of information act? Without it, how good can any journalist be? This is exactly how politicians want it, and why we get what we deserve. Obviously, with results such as these, we can only continue failing. We are failing, aren't we? Or, is this not the case?

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