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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In recent times, I have had cause to ask myself whether there is any relation between objectivity, impartiality and competence in journalism. I reckon that whilst journalists would have a constant fight for press freedom, they also have to weigh and respect an individual’s right for privacy.

Local media personnel are certainly entitled like anyone else to have values and to support a political party of their choice. But one would expect that they would be fair in reporting views and news emanating from either side of the political divide.

It is impossible to anticipate all possible situations which may arise and so there must be appropriate latitude for journalists to carry out their functions. Their jobs are not easy.

A news report ought to be accurate, fair and objective. It should not serve to entertain certain sections of the society, rather it ought to inform the entire population.

We now have morning “talk-show” hosts who, seem to be more interested in entertaining than informing.

They ought to probe whilst showing utmost respect for their guests. This is seldom the case and we often have situations where they attempt to vainly display that they somehow have more knowledge of a particular topic than the interviewee.

When I spoke out against the state’s interference in Hindu marriages, I was interviewed by certain members of the media.

Instead of ascertaining the reasons for the views I held, they attempted to ridicule me. In some instances, I was even criticised for the way I spoke.

There was a wave of sensationalism in reporting the issue but there was hardly any analytical reporting.

On the other hand, the media are meek and “tongue-less” when it comes to holding the Government accountable. Can you believe that in our society where there are almost two murders a day that no member of the media has seen it fit to probe the Prime Minister whether he is truly satisfied with the performance of his Minister of National Security?

Last week I was shocked that the Prime Minister was so easily let off the hook when he called on labour leaders to be more responsible.

Newspaper headlines appeared to bash labour leader Ancel Roget rather than the Prime Minister.

Didn’t the media see it fit to ask more pertinent and direct questions such as whether he agreed with the stance of Ancel Roget and if not, whether he saw a need to revisit the “Agreement” entered into between the PNM and the Labour movement?

Has any member of the media seen it fit to pose direct and probing questions to the Prime Minister as to whether he is satisfied with the performance of his Attorney General in light of his recent communications with former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC?

Are we instead, left to surmise the answers to these questions from opinion columns? Wouldn’t the direct answers of government officials to direct questions from the media serve to make an informed decision and to hold the Government more accountable?

Has any member of the media attempted to retrieve information relating to marriages of persons below the age of 18? Has anyone attempted to double check the data provided by the Attorney General?

I am certain that to date the answer remains “no.” Media personnel have been too busy running around to find women who may have been married as a teenager. This is the plain truth.

Have we become a society which trades on the sensational and the tragic deriving satisfaction from reading about other people’s misfortunes?

Or are we still driven by facts and information which objectively inform our intellectual views?

We must demand greater professionalism and competence from our media particularly journalists.

News is about facts and events. We must not be attracted to the news because of some false penchant for a silly notion that we are a carnival and bacchanalia country.

Rather our attraction to the news should be motivated by a desire to be informed about what transpires beyond the limited range of our own experiences.

I return to what I said earlier. News can be edited accurately, fairly and objectively or it can fail to meet these criteria.

The ultimate test of whether these criteria are met is whether we as the readers are satisfied. We are the ones who choose to buy newspapers, listen to the radio and follow on television.

Our continued subscription or discontinuance of these sources provide a measure of our satisfaction with the media.

This means that at the end of the day, our own moral criteria can help to shape our expectations of competent journalistic practice.

At present, Trinidad and Tobago is being subjected to a vicious crime splurge. Our economy is rapidly contracting and our school children are displaying extreme forms of indiscipline.

A proper understanding of these issues and finding long-term answers to same can only come if the facts are firstly, properly known and secondly, understood.

I therefore ask all fellow citizens to join my request of the media to be accurate, fair and objective in informing us.


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