Need for a fair-minded press

“We were wrong”

“I see this victory in the arbitration as a big thing and whether or not you like the government, “the boys” ought to be congratulated. It is a big thing. But the newspapers haven’t done so.”

That’s a title or headline that you won’t see over any editorial in any Trinidad and Tobago newspaper any time soon. Another title or headline that you shouldn’t hold your breath for is “WE ARE SORRY.” The question of a fair minded press comes to the fore once again. Let me be clear: the newspapers have every right in the world to be as biased or as unfair as they want to be. Bottom line: that is what freedom of the press is all about. I am not about trying to muzzle them, intimidate them, or restrict them in any way and I will be the first to join in condemning anybody who would be so foolish as to attempt to do such a thing.

But criticism is a very different thing from intimidation, and nobody and no institution should ever believe that it is so sacrosanct that it cannot be criticised.

What has brought this on is the announcement by the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday that the long running (two-year) arbitration battle between the government and UK-based British Aerospace Engineering Systems (BAE) over the cancellation of the OPV’s (Offshore Patrol Vessels) has been settled in the government’s favor with BAE Systems having to pay to Trinidad & Tobago the not inconsiderable sum of $1.382 billion.

Now, on Sunday, Oct., 28, 2012 the Sunday Guardian published a headline article that the attorney general had gone to the Cabinet with a request for approval that the government pay BAE the sum of $1.3 billion!! The article caused a huge fire storm with the Opposition yelling “we told you so!” at the top of their voices. The article went into some detail saying that several Cabinet ministers were irate and “confirmed the decision” to pay BAE had been taken but did not want to be taken. The article even went on to report that Mr. Dookeran, who had chaired the meeting, walked out of it.

The attorney general vigorously denied the truth of the article and slammed the Guardian for publishing it at a time when the matter was ‘sub judice’. Other government ministers also stepped up to the plate, but the truth is that not very many people believed them. After all, why would the Guardian publish such a story if it weren’t true?

It is pellucidly clear now that this report was as wrong as wrong could be. In fact, the truth is just the opposite! But there has been absolutely no apology from the Guardian or even a paltry acknowledgement that maybe, just maybe, it got its facts all wrong and that what was reported simply could not have been true. But the editorials in both the Guardian and the Express this morning chose instead to criticise the prime minister for her criticisms of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley, which she made at the Divali Nagar.

Tell me something: what do you honestly think is more important to Trinidad & Tobago this morning: the fact that the country has won a huge law suit or that the prime minister inserted certain political comments in a speech at a religious function? (And I am not here discussing whether or not the comments were justified. That is for another time. Let’s not mix apples and mangoes.) For the life of me I can’t understand it. I see this victory in the arbitration as a big thing and whether or not you like the government “the boys” ought to be congratulated. It is a big thing. But the newspapers haven’t done so.

I can only come up with one possible reason for the attitude of these two newspapers, and that is that they are terribly biased against the government. If somebody … anybody … could give me another reason or reasons I would gladly consider it or them. And as I said from the very beginning, if they want to be against the government (or anybody else) then that is their absolute and unqualified right. Just be honest about it!

This is the second time that I have pointed out the inherent bias in the press. I know all too well that the editors will ignore what I am saying here and will continue as before, but hopefully, one or two of my readers will begin to notice and will adjust their opinions on what they read in our media accordingly.


Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012

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