By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- "I say, no, that is not so at all. I say that the state media is not being used as an arm of the ruling party," said Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas, in response to allegations that his administration is using the state-controlled ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation as a mouthpiece of the governing Labour Party.
The charge has been made by former government minister, Dwyer Astaphan.
"The political opposition in this country is not allowed an opportunity to go on ZIZ. Mind you, ZIZ belongs to everybody in the country," Astaphan charged.
Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas
However, the prime minister painted a different picture, when asked about the matter at his monthly news conference on Wednesday.
"The track record is there as to what we have done since we've been in office in freeing up the media. As I said, my name could not even be called at one stage on the state media," he told reporters.
"I believe... of course there is room for improvement, and I believe that it is being improved. In fact, recently I have seen situations where members of the opposition are on the state television more often than the prime minister or any other minister of government, and I welcome that, because I believe that in the democracy that we're trying to build we have to ensure that there is fair exchange of ideas, and opportunities must be given to our people to make judgmental decisions on what they are seeing and what they are hearing."
The prime minister’s former deputy Sam Condor saw that explanation as disingenuous.
He reported having tried to get an address on state-owned ZIZ during his recent 25th anniversary as a parliamentarian, and didn’t even get a response from the corporation.
Astaphan said the problem is a real one, and the state media should be democratized in the interest of the people.
"Well we condemned PAM for what they did with ZIZ. You cannot condemn something and then be guilty of it, and then expect people to respect you."
Douglas, however, insisted that he is in favour of full democratization of the media.
"It is not our intention to, as we would say, 'hog' the media. Nothing of that kind. But we are on a march in the democratization, and we are taking steps, determined steps to ensure that there is full democratization of the media."
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network