Labour government no longer Media Sweethearts?
Alexis B. Montgomary
The local media appears to be the latest whipping boy to be targeted as the Saint Lucia Labour Party continues to practise tactics of irresponsibly shifting the blame of its failures from entity to entity. Several government ministers in recent times have taken swings at the local media because of the unfavourable slant and content of their reports, ostensibly to deter them from reporting on matters in a manner than will damage the reputation of the nation. This late–in-the–day concern that the members of the government are now conveniently adopting begs the question: why are they now so mindful of the impact that media reports can have on Saint Lucia’s image? Or is the troubling truth the fact that those news reports seem to frequently catch the government with its pants down, thereby placing some politicians in a less than impressive light?
Interestingly a high ranking Member of Parliament, not too long ago, sought to make mileage at the expense of the media by attempting to create a dubious and far–fetched connection between the former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams’ lying debacle and the local media’s credibility. In quick time the lofty regard once held toward this minister in media circles and in the general public plummeted as he was quickly exposed for his desperate bid to divert attention from key matters of governance with which the media accosted him.
After this Parliamentarian’s pitiable attempt and, of course, failure to discredit the validity of news reporting that obtains in the private media, one would have thought that his colleagues would have refrained from attempting to take similar potshots but, once again, the members of this government allowed themselves to become engulfed by crass thinking. The Minister for Home Affairs had a go at the media and it appeared to have left media practitioners wondering whether they worked for the government’s propaganda machinery and whether they too weren’t entitled to the Right of Association. These supercilious and misplaced comments came from perhaps the most embattled of ministers in government who has been unable to clearly answer questions on the IMPACS Report and the Lambirds Academy scandal.
Also well known for not speaking out on pressing education matters, another minister joined the fray when he was stalled by a persistent media cast and quizzed about his ministry’s level of due diligence, or the lack thereof, which may have contributed to the Lambirds Academy scandal. The minister, with camera’s rolling, climbed upon his pulpit to declare that negative and speculative reporting has far–reaching consequences for the image of the country. He counselled the media to have some consideration for the reputation of their own country and, having successfully evaded the substantive question on Lambirds, he must have felt rather pleased that he had nailed this encounter with reporters.
It is necessary to remind the government of the day that its turn of the tide with the media might be the sting of Karma. Indeed, this current tension between the government and the media was not always the case. In 2011 (election year) the Saint Lucia Labour Party was the envied national Media Sweetheart. It called weekly press conferences and sometimes trumped up the press conferences of the other side (the UWP).
It requested several more interviews than the Opposition and was accommodated. It vied for valuable airtime to lambaste mainly the incumbent United Workers Party and guess what? It was facilitated by nearly all of the media houses on island at the time. Close observers of media news coverage at the time were perturbed by the sudden departure from balanced reporting on national issues, in some sections of the media, to a more personalizedagenda-driven news coverage.
The pre–election news reporting was glaringly slanted and often did not include a comment from the incumbent. At the time the Labour Opposition had no qualms with the salted-to-taste perspectives that the media carried because they were promoting, inadvertently or not, the SLP’s agenda.
There is much disingenuousness in the ministerial calls for regard to be given to the country’s image. Over the 2010/2011 period of Labour’s campaign rampage, the talking points that it propagated were highly damaging, not only to the country’s reputation but also to the opponents’ personal image as well. Much of its reckless rhetoric at the time openly accused the government of being formed of rogues and renegades who had covertly plotted and carried out a plan that led to their leader’s demise. The insinuations that there were individuals in the then UWP government who were so criminally tainted that investors were frightened of coming to do business here, surely damaged Saint Lucia’s image in the long term. Since the harmful rhetoric went well beyond our shores, to this day some big investors are perhaps still discouraged to do business in Saint Lucia and so the country remains starved of investment even with this governemnt at the helm for three years now. Oh how things sometimes boomerang.
Finding itself on the thorny side of the news may have shocked a government which regards itself as infallible. The media’s role is probably finally on the right course and they should continue, despite any perceived government interference or intimidatory tactics, to report without fear or favour on the non–appearance of the much flaunted “Better Days Are Coming” promise.
In recent months the local media has become the
ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party’s punching bag.