By Lesroy W. Williams

Observer Reporting

(Bolans, Antigua)—The luxurious Jolly Beach Hotel in Bolans, Antigua, was the venue for a Newspaper Editors Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) workshop from July 16-17.

The objective of the two-day workshop was to provide journalists from Caricom member states with information on the working of the CSME as it regards regional integration and to assist them in the dissemination of information about the CSME through the print media.

Twenty-three journalists from 12 Caricom member states, namely, St. Kitts-Nevis, Belize, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Antigua, Montserrat and Suriname gathered to learn more about the process of regional integration and the importance of the free movement of skills and occupation, a free market for goods and services and the movement towards the formation of a single currency within Caricom.

Mr. Salas Hamilton, a specialist who works at the Caricom Secretariat and CSME unit in Bridgetown, Barbados, chaired the proceedings.

Mr. Hamilton spoke about the important role that journalists play in helping to advance the CSME by using the print media to positively promote the CSME that is crucial to the process of regional integration.

“A journalist does not have to be an economist or trained specialist to bring the tenets of journalism in covering any specialist area. The routes remain the same, keep it simple and be fair. All journalism should be investigative and ventilate the criticisms but also question just what are the cost and alternatives of not having regional integration,” Mr. Hamilton said in his welcoming remarks.

Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry, Ministry of Trade Representative, who declared the workshop open, underscored how important it was for journalists to come on board in stimulating public discussion on the CSME.

“I hope that the exchanges during your deliberations, will lead to a greater understanding of the aims and objectives of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, particularly the Caricom Single Market and Economy, which is our community’s flagship in the process of sustainable development of our countries and peoples, and improving the quality of life for all,” Mr. Henry said.

Mr. Henry, in addressing the journalists, said that he understood the intricacies of journalism.

“I salute you for embracing journalism as a profession, which has brought you praise on occasion and ridicule on others, as purveyors of gloom, sensationalism and conduits of political persuasion,” Mr. Henry stated. “Right or wrong, yours is an awesome responsibility. For you must know and understand your own country or territory, its people, its culture, and the social, economic and political environment in which you operate.”

Mr. Henry said that journalism is a difficult and often financially unrewarding profession. He further stated that journalists have a responsibility in determining reality from fiction in the dissemination of information.

Mr. Henry mentioned that the progress of the CSME was one of the focuses of discussion during the recently concluded twenty-ninth meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government.

“Our leaders are very much aware of the challenges we face, individually and collectively, and the impact of these challenges based on national resources and levels of development,” Mr. Henry noted.

He said that some of these challenges include the rising cost of living (food and fuel increases), pressures on some Member States’ social services as a result of the free movement of skills, and the escalation of crime and violence, and downtowns in the global economy.

Mr. Henry underscored the point that the task of integration and crafting strategies and mechanisms to respond to the new challenges are solely the responsibility of politicians or Governments of Caricom but that everyone has a role to play especially journalist and editors because of their unique position and influence both on the product of their respective enterprises and their impact on public opinion.

In Mr. Henry’s view it is important that the media be well-informed on issues relating to our region so that our people will receive fair, full and focused stories on the issues that are so important to their development.