By Phillip Edward Alexander
There's an old saying that goes, “No one raindrop ever thinks of itself as having caused the flood,” and in this instance its message could not be clearer.
When gold digger extraordinaire Sacha Singh told the nation via the media that all women send naked pictures of themselves to men that they're interested in she was speaking to that 12-year-old girl too, and seemingly without understanding their power to do harm, when no one handling that story took it upon themselves to challenge the notion they gave it their tacit approval and a media stamp of agreement.
Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen's Union of Trinidad and Tobago
So now that that same 12-year-old girl has had the 'bejesus' beaten out of her for it for all the world to see, she and the rest of the nation knows now it's untrue, but who gets to teach Judy Raymond of the Guardian and Sampson Nanton of CNC3 about journalistic integrity and media responsibility?
I have been reliably informed that Denyse Renne set off on a personal vendetta with attorney Gerald Ramdeen to 'make him pay' and that the prisons beating story is a means to an end, but what of the damage being done to the judiciary, the magistracy, the prisons administration, the medical fraternity and the legal profession by what is being inferred along the way? And while many may have been tempted to think that this is a straight up battle in the continuing war between the Trinidad Express and the attorney general, information making its way into the public domain suggests otherwise, that what it really is is another example of a journalist understanding the real power of media, and using that power for full effect.
Similar to Asha Javeed's own war with the chairman of National Quarries, whose rapid-fire six or seven exposés misled all and sundry to believe that this was journalism at work in the public interest, only to be confounded later by rumours that she was in fact using her position as a journalist to compel the signing of a multi-million dollar contract with her boyfriend and the same National Quarries. When that story broke, senior editor Lennox Grant had cause to recommend to editor in chief Omatie Lyder that Javeed be taken offline and investigated, to which she (Lyder) surprisingly flatly refused, despite further allegations of similar impropriety being raised against the journalist, including one raised by the then mayor of Arima who accused the same Javeed of attempting to use her position against him for personal gain.
To date there has been no investigation by anyone. Not her superiors, not the Media Association, not even the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, so business as usual continues in the Express newsroom.
When TV6 ran the 'nipple-gate' story as their top story, did journalist Mark Bassant know then that the accuser was a known extortionist assisting in enquiries with other similar matters? Did he care to investigate his source? Or was he too using his privilege to smear reputations without regard to the fall out or any other damage that might be caused? And now that he knows like the rest of the nation knows that the entire story is a made of fabrication designed to strong arm a sitting minister, would he do the right and honourable thing and investigate the accuser and bring that as a top story that apologizes to the minister in equal time?
When the framers of the Constitution enshrined a free press in the list of rights of the citizens, I am sure they never envisaged a time when attacks against the press would come from within, or that the threat to the people would come from the media itself. Now the questions have to be asked, what is there to protect the public from a media gone rogue? What avenue of redress for an attack by a poisoned pen?
Where is the Media Association on the above mentioned abuses and others? Is it really, as many suggest, hopelessly compromised and beholden to political interests? Having sat in on at least two MATT meetings, I have had reason to enquire as to where the 'rest' of the journalists were, only to be told off the record that only sympathizers of a known political party bother to join and MATT itself is referred to as (political party named) party group number five. If that is so, where then is the integrity?
Where is the Telecommunications Authority on what takes place on the Islamic Broadcasting Network that is at one time bringing both religion and the press into disrepute?
By his actions, owner and show host Inshan Ishmael is doing more to set racial and religious harmony back decades by his vitriolic rants, and to me it is not enough to say that his audience is minuscule, his reach negligible therefore his act harmless. If any raindrop can contribute to the flood, seditious rantings in a multi-ethnic plural society should never be tolerated and TATT needs to decide what its role really is.
The reality is that traditional media is itself in serious trouble and the threat from social media cannot be ignored. Words like 'viral' and 'breaking news' have new meaning in an environment of instant information and it may only be a matter of time before newspapers go the way of the phone book. Perhaps that is what is behind the mad rush to dash journalistic principles in favour of bacchanal, to compete for sales in an ever shrinking market, or as Fazeer Mohammed told me during an interview on TV6's Morning Edition, no one wants to hear about prime ministers opening hospitals and law schools, not when bacchanal sells papers.
Conceivably that may well be why what is being passed off as journalism these days is coming at such a heavily marked down price.