Wrong Answer, Dr. Douglas The Communications Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister recently issued a press release that opened with the following: BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 13TH 2008 ” St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas said Wednesday that the twin”island Federation must not allow local political differences to tarnish the name of the country and has urged non-governmental organisations to assist local media houses to establish and implement standards of journalism. “In this competitive world, our people simply cannot afford to lose income and business opportunities as a result of careless and misleading publications,” Dr. Douglas, who is also Minister of Tourism said Wednesday afternoon at the ground breaking ceremony for the multi-million dollar Tom Fazio World Class Golf Course on the Southeast Peninsula. He said in the current environment everything possible must be done to attract every additional dollar of investment, tourism receipts or export earnings. “We cannot afford to run away potential investors by misleading and scary publications,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who disclosed that during a meeting on Tuesday night with Christophe Harbour Chief Executive Officer and award-winning South Carolina developer, Buddy Darby and his team, they expressed concern that certain comments in a local publication had been a source of worry to their investors. “Fortunately, the Kiawah group has been able to ascertain the facts and allay the fears of such investors,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who urged the local media to take extra care to verify their facts before publishing any negative information about the Federation. — Prime Minister Douglas is correct in saying the press must be careful to make sure facts are correct before they are published. That is one of the goals of every responsible journalist. Other goals include publishing the information in a timely manner and making the writing as impartial as possible. All responsible journalists will welcome assistance from legitimate non-governmental organizations who offer critiques of their products. This is part of the business and practice of journalism. Only through careful and thorough review can an organ of the press hope to improve. Yet there are several things wrong with the prime minister’s manner of suggesting that Federation journalists need NGO assistance. First, Dr. Douglas fails to specify which publications are “careless,” “misleading” or ‘scary.” This tactic smears every member of the press. If he has specific complaints, he should address them and not hide behind foggy charges. Second, if Dr. Douglas is unhappy with the local press coverage of crime ” coverage that has come under criticism because it is immutably negative in its nature – he is looking in the wrong place to assign blame. While criminals bear the ultimate responsibility for their actions, it is the role of law enforcement to bring them to justice. In his role as Minister of National Security, he is in charge of the machinery that is supposed to deter crime and catch criminals. The best way to keep the press from writing about crime is to lower the crime rate. The press bears a responsibility to the public for reporting crime because it is a vital issue of personal and public safety. Last, and most important, when any public official offers a proposal ‘to establish and implement standards of journalism” in that official’s realm, the press must raise alarms about the possibility of censorship. Such alarms must be raised right at the beginning and be sounded loudly and repeatedly because failing to do so may allow the imposition of censorship ” after which there will be no alarms, no freedom of the press and ultimately, no freedom. Thank you for your offer, Dr. Douglas, but we respectfully decline.
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