By Caribbean News Now contributor
ST GEORGE'S, Grenada -- The Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) said it is alarmed by evidence of the growing intolerance of the current government to opinions and views it sees as critical to it in the media.
Media owners and workers are reporting of increased pressures – both overt and covert – by high profile officials acting on behalf of the administration of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
“We are particularly concerned about two recent cases,” MWAG said, calling on the government to explain its role in the recent decision of the Grenada Broadcasting Network to issue a directive to contributor Godfrey Augustine that he cannot continue with his long-running radio feature ‘River Stone’ because it has been critical of government.
“Prime Minister Thomas, who has direct responsibility for the partially state-owned company, must clear the air on who authorized the letter of complaint, demanding action,” the association said.
“The management of the Grenada Broadcasting Network, and particularly its CEO Vic Fernandes, also needs to state publicly the station’s policy towards freedom of opinion and thought, not only in its general programming, but also news content; and what direct influence the government, as a 40 percent shareholder, has on its news operations,” MWAG added.
The Media Workers Association has also received a written report from freelance journalist Maryam Tawfiq, who has accused Finance Minister Nazim Burke of physically intervening to stop her interview with Thomas after he had consented to it.
Tawfiq, a journalist who contributes to RUSH TV, has reported that Burke has singled her out after she posted online a video of her previous failed effort to interview him.
MWAG said it interprets these actions over the recent months as an orchestrated move by the government and its agents to harass and intimidate its members, and in some cases directly affect their livelihood.
“We also recall that it was Prime Minister Thomas’ office that influenced the Barbados-owners of the Grenada Advocate to wrongly dismiss its local editor for publishing a story – with the recent revelations of the recent months – which turned out to be completely true,” the association said.
MWAG reminded Thomas of his responsibility to public information and called on him to seriously recommit his administration’s pledge to press freedom – not just in words – but real action.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Tuesday, the Grenada government said it maintains its commitment to press freedom, both as a policy and in practice.
"We have maintained an unwavering obligation to media freedom and an atmosphere in which people can freely express their views, whether it favours government or not," said Senator Glen Noel, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Ministry.
The government denied any involvement in the removal of any media practitioner from their employment and rejected suggestions that it has harassed and or intimidated the membership of MWAG.
“The administration notes with much concern, the increasing trend of appropriating blame to the state whenever independent agencies make decisions that may adversely affect particular practitioners,” the statement read.
The government said it is also alarmed that a trend is a deliberate attempt to tarnish the country's image regarding its adherence to freedom of the media in all its forms.
Thomas has consistently assured the media, his countrymen and the international community of his government's adherence to a free and unencumbered media that recognizes the basic tenets of professionalism, responsible and ethical behaviour, the statement claimed.
“Bona fide media workers must also insist that their profession not be used or manipulated to settle vendettas and political scores,” the government concluded.