Local journalists raise alarm over threats to press freedom

By SNO Staff

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Left to right: Timothy Poleon, Clinton Reynolds.

Left to right: Timothy Poleon, Clinton Reynolds.

Saint Lucian journalist, Timothy Poleon, took the government to task on Monday during his radio programme “Newsspin” aired on Radio Caribbean International (RCI), over its recent alleged attacks on the local media fraternity.

Poleon, who was faced with a legal battle in the past, said while there are a few journalists on the island who are  holding the government’s feet to the fire, they are being put under tremendous pressure.

“Calls to your bosses are constant, and those people making the calls are on the sidelines boasting of the impact that this is taking. They are laughing and Saint Lucia is continuing to suffer…Lawsuits are being brought against individuals and they are happy,” he stated.

The broadcaster accused the ruling administration of allegedly creating an atmosphere where the media is being suppressed, and the rights to freedom of expression is being trampled on, especially when they are put in a negative light.

“What if some media practitioners are afraid to bring critical information to the public? How free is the media in reporting truth in an unfiltered manner?” he questioned.

Poleon said there are a lot of things journalists want to reveal to the general public, but they have to tread carefully, because somebody might threaten them with a lawsuit, and they will be insulted.

“I just hope that the people of Saint Lucia, as far as this issue is concerned, that you are not short-sighted, that you realize what is happening. So when it appears that we are shortchanging you, that at least you can understand what is happening to most of us in the media right now,” he added.

The Newsspin host declared that those who continue to “prosecute and persecute” the media, will not be in those leadership positions forever, and said serious consideration must be given to that.

“I hope you know that. You have your own insecurities. In my humble opinion, if ever, you are given a position of responsibility, undertake that duty in a very compassionate manner,” he asserted.

Poleon’s comment comes days after President of the Media Association of Saint Lucia (MASL), Clinton Reynolds, was issued with court documents for alleged libelous statement aired on a news network.

Reynolds was the first person to call the programme after Poleon’s statement on Monday and declared that he was speaking not for any political party, but on behalf of the media.

“If we allow politicians and other interest groups to continue to marginalize us, to threaten us, to intimidate us, to ridicule us, then there will be no future for media on Saint Lucia,” he asserted.

Reynolds believes now is the time for the media to step up, come together and recognize that their democracy is being threatened.

“Now is the time for us to stand hand in hand, arm in arm, as media professionals in this country, and to say this is enough. What has been going on for years has to stop, and we as media professionals have to do what it takes to stop it, otherwise there will be no future for people who want to practice media here, or the future will not be as bright as they hope for it to be,” he added.

He said the media must continue to apply pressure where it is necessary and hold people accountable for their actions, while expressing their views clearly and fairly.

“I don’t care who you support politically, we need to safeguard our profession,” he noted.

Reynolds was served with the court document sometime last week, by attorneys for President of the Senate, Claudius Francis, who himself is a talk show host, like Reynolds.

Despite these arguments, some callers were of the view that the media must practice responsible journalism and report on matters that will not get them in hot water.

(34)(4)
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26 comments

  1. I AM NOT VOTING THIS YEAR!! All politicians are the same. For some of you who might disagree with me then I say to you that the ones you believe are not. They are as guilty by association!!!! This is all about MONEY, STATUS, INTIMIDATION, VICTIMIZATION, EGO, SELF DEVELOPMENT, & REWARDING THEIR FRIENDS. Politics have nothing to do with serving one country for these so called people. Young people open your eyes!!!!

    (4)(0)
  2. Bambi, What is Journalistic journalism? As you are aware trying to defend something which you are ignorant of will make you speak poop.

    (2)(0)
  3. For all of you bright fellows or party hacks or whatever you call yourself the responsibility starts with politicians coming to give the public the facts. In the absence of that the public including the media is FREE to speculate and formulate an opinion. This is not only a enshrined as a freedom of speech and expression but comes as a basic right on public (political) discourse. It is also a fact that when one consciously becomes a politician he is aware that he opens himself up to public scrutiny whether in political or in private life (remember the speech of the PM about not getting into politic sif you have skeletons in your closet?) . The court therefore takes a very dim view of politicians suing the public and press for defamation.

    In recent years the UN has even taken most of the nations to task including the US and UK who already liberal laws concerning 'fair comment." What they argue is that the politician has more influence and power, more so in the case of those forming the government who have access to public funds and unlimited media to articulate their position or defend themselves. A politician has a "qualified privilege" to insinuate any thing about any member of public or press when he sits in parliament and when venting on his political platform to which these aggrieved citizens have no recourse to justice. It is noted that it is a particular strategy employed by the current PM who seemingly utters such innuendos on these forums but is particularly more reclusive when issuing press statements.

    I take it that the politicians at the the centre of the controversy have not come to the fore to defend themselves? Reluctantly too, as they have many tax payer financed avenues at their disposal, rather, they have kept quiet on the matter and started legal proceedings. Don't you think that this is rather disingenuous on the part of those concerned? The result is while the public remains uninformed of the issue the press is silenced by the effect of pending lawsuits. Isn't that marvelous?

    Casing point, our PM tried to pass a controversial piece of legislation 361 in order to make defamation criminal. A great proponent of the legislation was the current speaker of the House and he said so publicly to a point when he said he was disappointed with the PM for removing it off the books. Some people agreed, however it was not within their knowledge at the time that the UN have taken a very hard line against governments who were implementing such measures. Those of you who think that it was an arbitrary decision by the PM, think again! Further, questions now arise as to the ingenuity of the PM as to why he wanted such legislation passed in the first place? In the absence of PM coming clean via his tax payer financed resources people and press are again FREE to speculate.

    Those of you who speak irresponsibility about the press must be more responsible and report the facts are just as dumb or convenient as they come. For A fact can only become fact until it is reported and clarified, before that it is mere speculation. No one knew before the 14th century that the world was round. It was speculated by Columbus and others before him that it was. However Columbus was declared mad and others were even jailed for making such allegations (I guess many of you are now manifesting the attributes such jailers). We can all guess what happened after!

    The fact that you choose to curtail your freedom of speech and expression when your party is in power is nobody's business that you choose your party over your own life and that of your children.

    (2)(0)
  4. What really is the big issue here? St. Lucians want to know.
    Waste of the courts time when there are cases pending for years with accused persons remain in prison. Choops!

    (1)(0)
  5. Blah Blah Blah....if the shoe was on the other foot it would be the same thing....

    (0)(0)
  6. As Saint Lucians we really need to think and comment more intelligently. I agree that no group or person should be victimized in this country, we must not tolerate it. However, in defending the media, we need to demand that they ply their trade in a professional and unbiased manner. I've stopped watching, listening and reading news in this country, especially political news. There is no balance, it is a case of simply allowing politicians to spew their bullshit, and the local media seems more biased towards the UWP. Is it because old man chas is paying them for that? The job of the media is to report the news items to the public fairly and professionally.

    (0)(0)
  7. From Stanford University...

    Journalism has long been regarded as an important force in government, so vital to the functioning of a democracy that it has been portrayed as an integral component of democracy itself. In 1841, Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all” (On Heroes and Hero Worship). Four years earlier, Carlyle had used the phrase in his French Revolution: “A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up, increases and multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable.” Carlyle saw the press as instrumental to the birth and growth of democracy, spreading facts and opinions and sparking revolution against tyranny.

    The fact of the matter is that democracy requires informed citizens. No governing body can be expected to operate well without knowledge of the issues on which it is to rule, and rule by the people entails that the people should be informed. In a representative democracy, the role of the press is twofold: it both informs citizens and sets up a feedback loop between the government and voters. The press makes the actions of the government known to the public, and voters who disapprove of current trends in policy can take corrective action in the next election. Without the press, the feedback loop is broken and the government is no longer accountable to the people. The press is therefore of the utmost importance in a representative democracy.

    Another, related, function of the press is to expose people to opinions contrary to their own. This function is perhaps the most valuable in the Internet age; while people can in theory get information about the actions of their government from online sources, it is all too easy to find opinions online that match one’s own. Informed decision-making on the part of voters requires an awareness of multiple points of view, which is not likely to be obtained if voters bear the sole responsibility of seeking out information on relevant issues. The news media provide a forum for debates to take place, as well as moderating and curating the arguments presented by all sides. It is, of course, idealistic to suppose that media give equal, or even proportional, representation to all opinions, but the fact that many media outlets present themselves as nonpartisan sources of information makes them a better forum for debate than online sources such as blogs, which are typically maintained by one individual or a small group of people with similar opinions.

    News media also foster a sense of community between groups that might otherwise see themselves as distinct. Media have presented relatively local events, such as natural disasters, as matters of national and even international concern. The sense of community created by such portrayal is not fabricated; arguably, such events should be the concern of all in an increasingly globalized world. A sense of community is vital to democracy, in which voters must often check their own liberties for the common good. In addition, an awareness of distant events is vital to the functioning of a globalized capitalist economy, in which local events may have worldwide economic repercussions.

    (1)(0)
  8. Me personally if the media knows what they are doing, then they got nothing to be afraid of everything recorded. Who ever frightens the media should have a valid reason, however media should be free of their speech and whoever that do not like it should clear or air them self out. Journalist is one of the most dangerous job and they can even be killed, they just got to be strong and not take things personally

    (1)(0)
  9. Hotel workers get victimized (silence), unskilled workers get victimized (silence), Phil Simmons gets reprimanded for his comments against outside interest (caribbean leaders) in picking players for the west indies team everybody had something to say but poor Tim resigns because he feels his efforts on the job are being hindered by outside interest and labaaahhh supporters on his back..... To the blind supporters Kenny could not sue RCI nor get Tim fired based on St. Lucian Law (yes I have a copy of the constitution you should get a copy too) so he demanded an apology for reading a story that was not published by him nor his station. Now tell me is this not interference. Caribbean360 is still alive and kicking. Where is the lawsuit against them who were the publishers of the story. Support your party but not blindly

    (3)(0)
  10. The Role of the Media in a Democratic Society"

    Speaking notes by Dr. J.P. Shea, NATO Spokesman

    The media as the 'fourth estate': basic functions of the media in a democratic society.

    inform the public on what is going on: inform democratic choices through the clarification of complex issues, particularly in an age when information is the driving force of economic advancement and international events impact on people's daily lives as never before;
    provoke public debates leading to greater public participation in important decisions;
    uncover abuses, pressure for their rectification;
    alert and mobilize public opinion to humanitarian causes/injustices;
    allow political pluralism to express itself by advertising different views/ ideological approaches to certain issues;
    keep politicians attuned to public opinion while offering politicians a medium to explain policies/decisions to public opinion and build the necessary support.
    The responsibility of the media towards society: with great power comes great responsibility.

    A totally impartial media is neither possible nor desirable. Most newspapers have political or ideological preferences but, it is:
    essential to maintain distinction between facts and opinion, reporting and analysis;
    use only trained, professional reporters with knowledge of subject and who check sources before reporting;
    set the political agenda: explain issues without trivializing or sensationalizing;
    publish corrections;
    preserve state secrets / not use information likely to be harmful to national security or to endanger individuals.
    The responsibility of society to the media

    create the conditions for a pluralist media to thrive / survive. This can be done by means of:
    anti-monopoly/trust legislation; avoid excessive taxation on small media;
    making large spectrum of airwaves, frequencies available;
    encouraging a strong private sector in addition to state controlled media;
    legislating minimum TV/Radio access to all opposition political parties, particularly during election campaigns;
    freedom of information laws or at least avoiding catch-all official secrets laws that discourage free flow of non-national security related information; release of information after certain dates;
    legislating appropriate privacy or libel laws that prevent media intrusion into people's private lives or sensationalization of human suffering. However, these privacy laws must not block legitimate investigative journalism of the Woodward/Bernstein variety.
    having a press council or regulatory commission that upholds standards, clamps down or abusive or inflammatory language calculated to provoke social divisions and unrest, adjudicates complaints and allows individuals/organisations redress for unfair treatment - through libel actions for instance. Rather than the state closing newspapers, it is better for individuals or organizations to drive abusive media out of business through financial penalties.
    The relationship between politicians and the media

    basically it is a love/hate relationship. Both need each other; the one to provide the information, the other to communicate it. The role of the media in a democracy is the result of the permanent "creative tension" between the two sides. It is a messy system but the alternative is a media that is excessively docile or excessively critical of the fact that politics is only "the art of the possible".
    governments want to control the release of information and present a united front; the media like to look for the cracks and the contradictions. One likes good or predictable news - "dog eats man"; the other likes bad news or the unusual - "man eats dog".
    politicians like to present their successes and their opinions, to use the media to gain public recognition and enlarge their authority; the media's role is to question these critically, to analyze, to judge and to relativize - the role of the media is never to blindly or unquestioningly support a given political party or cause. That not only undermines the credibility and value of the media (which becomes simply a propaganda machine); it also undermines the political party or cause as no institution can thrive and adapt to change without regular, constructive criticism.
    if the media are to do their job seriously, politicians must treat the media seriously. Regular flow of information, briefings, an honest objective approach, never lie. If the media do not get information from you, they will usually get it from someone else - less accurately. So it is counter-productive to ignore the media;
    avoid cover-ups - if a mistake is exposed by the media, acknowledge it and show that you are taking steps to redress it - that restores confidence;
    politicians and journalists should treat each other with respect but not friendship - politicians who believe they control journalists are invariably disappointed; journalists who get too close to politicians lose their objectivity. The relationship should be close but not too close.
    in deciding on any policy, it is essential to devise a media strategy as an integral part of the process. The perception of the policy is as important as the policy itself particularly in an age when the media present news in real-time and political leaders announce their decisions to each other via CNN rather than through diplomatic cables. It is inevitable in modern democracies that politicians should use spokespersons and PR consultants to keep their personalities and messages prominent in the media but there is no substitute for political leaders explaining themselves directly to their voters via the media: that is the essence of the democratic process.
    [ Go to Speeches Menu ] [ Go to Homepage ]

    (0)(0)
  11. Disgusted by Hypocrisy

    Here we go again... Sad but true and Bambi how much are you getting paid?

    It's about victimization... The government is doing a lousy job and they do not want it to be reported.

    Where are all of the jobs that they speak of? I happen to be in a position where I know EXACTLY how the 5,000 new jobs that the PM spoke of recently came about. If everyone did what they are supposed to do we wouldn't be having these issues.

    Why exactly is Claudias suing Clinton? Because he read the HEADLINE? He anchors the news for God's sake!!! Was the Editor who WROTE the story sued?

    Was the Reporter who READ the story sued? Was MBC sued? Why was only Clinton sued?

    You people need to see what's happening! Why did Tim leave Choice? Just because?

    Think about the number of Government programs and talk shows aired on choice. It was probably $$$$ from the government or Tim's job. Open your eyes!!!

    These media practitioners are being victimized left right and center. These people have families who are affected.

    In this 2x2 island everyone close to the government allegedly has "POWER" but the longest rope has an end.

    You can NEVER be in power forever... NEVER!!! Tango tanto...

    (49)(6)
    • Your party has been in power the longest in this country ( and you know it ). The media had NO VOICE to talk during that time. And if you were or are a student of Political History, then you would know it was the Labour Party that opened the "Gates and Halls" of Press Freedom.

      But this new Press Freedom that has been handed down to media workers, still has not set into their minds that one must not engage in deceptive dissemination and or defamation practices, as it has the potential to cause irreparable damage to whom the article or other electronic media is pursuing.

      In a nutshell, get the story RIGHT and ENSURE YOUR SOURCES WILL HAVE YOUR BACK ( WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOW)

      Sad-But-True

      (1)(1)
  12. All media workers should boycott all media houses, don't read news or host any show, this is very important.
    The media should expose all politicians, Snd don't take sides because most politicians are the same

    (35)(6)
  13. i take it those journalists cant strike or protest...their media houses apparently dont back them up since we have some that have no choice but to walk out on their jobs...like someone said victimization has to stop

    (28)(4)
  14. If someone feels slandered by the media why is it believed that taking the matter to court means that media is being attacked? If as a talk show host or journalist you are prepared to put out sensitive possibly slanderous information. Also be prepared to defend it.

    (11)(18)
  15. Rubbish. who he want to sue. that wanna-be-lawyer think he can intimidate people--really.
    Only in St.Lucia that crap can happen. Print the court documents...

    (38)(6)
  16. Victimization in this country must end! These small minded politicians want to shut people up once they are not on their side and yet claiming we have free speech.

    (43)(4)
  17. Tim, St. Lucia is the only island in the Caribbean where talk-show hosts can on a weekly basis insult the PM of the country (by calling him *******and other insults) with impunity and nothing is done about it. And yet you want to make it appear that "Press freedom is being threatened?)

    Tim, you had a gentleman who is representing the "yellow party" insult a representative of the SLTB, LIVE ON AIR, on your show.
    Not once did I hear you called him out or even moderated your show.

    See, people who want to claim their status as 'Media Workers' do not want to be held accountable for the things they say or convey out to the General Public. But when taken to task, the "Threat to Press Freedom Card" is pulled.

    So, PRESS FREE IS ALIVE AND WELL!
    TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE THINGS YOU SAYETH!

    (25)(73)
  18. Timothy is right and he knows what he talking about. Its only after the party wins and the celebrations begin then you hear persons start talking about the part they played in helping their party win.

    Ridiculous ...in a small nation with so many issues we need all the opinions of the press to make it better. If we believe what the press say is wrong then disprove it. Why does everything have to be political and this nonsense started after the end of UWP thirty year power reign and it never stopped.

    Its like a continuous cycle of political campaigning and seeds of discord by the two parties. We the youth need to campaign for a third party, and underdog party that can rise up to expose the dutty work of the two parties and all the hacks.

    Wake up people and think and see Taiwanese funds coming in and we not using it to build factories to make boats, laptops, processing plants, build technical primary, secondary and tertiary schools for engineers, plumbers,.

    Why do we have to use the funds on building gutters and footpaths or meaningless projects with sub standard work. If the money is for the community then let us develop schools, good curriculum, sustainable jobs in the community.

    Yes Castries have communities too and we can use the vacant old CDC lots to develop second chance schools were adults and boys and girls on the block can get a chance to learn new skills. Stop the nonsense , look to make a Radio a more meaningful station instead of a boring, profitless radio station or courses to elevate journalists to the standards that we can export.

    Thanks to an explosion of talk shows and st lucia news online that give us a voice to speak.

    (45)(7)
  19. The public needs to be aware of the things that are taking place in this country. We cannot be left in the dark especially when it pertains to the people we elect to represent us. What can I say, if you do not want your dirty deeds to be made public then don't practise them. It was high time the media spoke out about this issue. Too many times people have been served for bringing the truth to light. It is ludicrous!!!! Do not stifle journalism in St Lucia! To Tim and Clinton way to go.....stand your ground.

    (44)(4)
  20. The media have no problem if the journalist practise journalistic journalism. If you report the facts and not fictions you cannot be sued period. I failed to understand that they did not do their research on that particular case.Claudius is totally correct and right in his action. What is the motive for raising that issue again now?

    (12)(48)
    • YOU KNOW WHY THE ISSUE IS RAISED NOW? BECAUSE THERE IS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYES. WE NEED TO LOOK BELOW THE SURFACE BUT YOU KNOW SOME OF US JUST TAKE WHAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US AT FACE VALUE.

      STOP THINKING INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE BOX "JUST REMOVE THE BOX YOU MIGHT SEE CLEARER"

      (17)(8)

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