Politi­cians visit ir­ra­tional fears upon lo­cal me­dia

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Lucia H. Best

More and more peo­ple are join­ing the im­pas­sioned de­bate about how the SLP ad­min­is­tra­tion has dis­carded its pretty-face mask to in­tim­i­date the per­ceived un­friendly me­dia per­son­nel. The not so se­cret bee in their red bon­nets is that there’s “too much UWP” in the news. That, de­spite that the party has its own shows on ra­dio and TV, and I’m not re­fer­ring to NTN and RSL.

Clearly the on­go­ing ten­sion be­tween the SLP ad­min­is­tra­tion and the lo­cal me­dia does not make for a healthy democ­racy. Con­sid­er­ing all that is al­ready on­go­ing un­der this ad­min­is­tra­tion, in terms of IMPACS, sanc­tions un­der the Leahy Law, al­le­ga­tions of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, Hu­man Rights vi­o­la­tions and the like, the last thing He­len needs right now is a new scar on her face.

Sadly the pub­lic has just seen an­other week go by with­out the small­est at­tempts at ar­riv­ing at me­di­a­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. If any­thing, per­haps all the watch­ful elec­torate has seen are in­creas­ingly un­help­ful signs of para­noia on the part of party hacks.

Can there not be a meet­ing of both sides to seek to bring all the ex­ist­ing is­sues to the ta­ble by en­gag­ing in con­struc­tive di­a­logue? Law­suits, war of words, mis­trust and ob­vi­ous po­lit­i­cal im­ma­tu­rity demon­strated by some pub­lic of­fi­cials have been the or­der of the day. Mean­while more and more lo­cal in­cum­bents are look­ing like bul­lies.

It has long been said that the me­dia and politi­cians make strange bed­fel­lows. In 1997 Dr. Kenny An­thony was not de­terred by such words of prac­ti­cal wis­dom. He was the ev­er­gra­cious host of many me­dia cock­tails, rub­bing shoul­ders with them whilst sip­ping li­ba­tions in an easy­go­ing at­mos­phere.

Per­haps at the time he was hav­ing some feel­ing or ves­tige of grat­i­tude to­wards the me­dia for its con­tri­bu­tion to his party’s land­slide 16–1 vic­tory against the United Work­ers Party. It may also have been as a re­sult of be­ing very chummy with the me­dia that the Labour Party bought into the be­lief that the news me­dia can ei­ther make you or break you. Did they learn too much about me­dia work­ings at those cock­tails? Mean­while politi­cians re­main at lib­erty to cor­rect any­thing they be­lieve was un­fairly re­ported about them.

There is al­ways room for the pub­lic to ac­cept or re­ject in­for­ma­tion. The same news au­di­ence that the me­dia may “mis­lead” also freely con­sumes in­for­ma­tion from other sources such as In Touch and The Red Zone, unashamedly red. Brain­wash­ing can never thrive in a democ­racy and is not at the core of this me­dia/SLP quar­rel. The trou­bling ac­cu­sa­tion that the me­dia is not be­ing fair and bal­anced re­ally has no merit.

Yes, the me­dia in­flu­ences pol­i­tics and po­lit­i­cal be­hav­iour, in Saint Lucia and else­where. A free press is not au­to­mat­i­cally an ir­re­spon­si­ble press. The me­dia has no con­trol over how peo­ple process the in­for­ma­tion that comes at them. Peo­ple are free to de­cide for them­selves be­tween what they read and what they see.

This is an era of “news you can choose.” Peo­ple have at their dis­posal, as never be­fore, sev­eral op­tions for in­form­ing them­selves. They don’t re­ally need the news to know what is hap­pen­ing. The tra­di­tional me­dia is it­self un­der pres­sure to keep its rel­e­vance with the ad­vent of new me­dia. Let’s hope the dis­grun­tled politi­cians get an eye–opener of how pow­er­ful is the reach, speed and in­flu­ence of new me­dia es­pe­cially in the case of so­cial me­dia.

Has the SLP ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der­stood the sheer power to Share, Like and Vent on one’s pages where hun­dreds or thou­sands view up to the minute; in­clud­ing fam­ily and friends who fol­low? This is the real power. Politi­cians should keep in mind that there is ac­cess to mil­lions of apps and other plat­forms that peo­ple now uti­lize.

If politi­cians want the tra­di­tional me­dia to re­port to suit them, then how will they (politi­cians) get so­cial me­dia to com­ply with the same ex­pec­ta­tion?

It is there­fore rea­son­able to think that should our learned politi­cians hold any anx­i­ety or worry what­so­ever to­wards me­dia re­port­ing, then their con­cern should rest with so­cial me­dia. When it comes to tra­di­tional re­spon­si­ble me­dia re­port­ing - tele­vi­sion, news­pa­per and ra­dio - they should dis­con­tinue be­ing driven by their base­less and ir­ra­tional fears, as­so­ci­ated with the so– called “silly seaon”.

Me­dia work­ers as­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive seen here last week strate­giz­ing ahead of a planned ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing sched­uled for this Sun­day April 24 to dis­cuss the cur­rent me­dia cli­mate.

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