By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- In a statement on Monday, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) in Saint Lucia indicated that it stands firmly with Timothy Poleon -- a local radio and TV journalist -- and the media, against any form of legal action proposed by minister for legal affairs, home affairs and national security, Phillip La Corbiniere, as announced on Radio Saint Lucia on Friday.
“Over the last few weeks, Saint Lucians have watched and listened as ministers target specific media workers in an effort to intimidate and instill fear in them by the issuance of threats. The latest statement coming from Senator Victor LaCorbiniere is evident that this Labour Administration does not respect the democratic right of every citizen of this country,” the UWP said.
The opposition party called on La Corbinere to provide the nation with justified reasons for pursuing legal action against Poleon and Radio Caribbean International.
In response to some of the points raised by La Corbiniere in his announcement last Friday, the UWP noted that the information referenced did not originate from any media house or journalist in Saint Lucia. The UWP also called on La Corbiniere to clarify whether the statement and allegations referred to and found online are true.
“Must media workers, in the execution of their duties and responsibilities, suffer the rampant persecution and onslaught of name calling such as labeling Mr Poleon a ‘media terrorist’?” the UWP asked.
“It appears that the [St Lucia Labour Party] SLP administration has developed a pattern of intimidation each time they assume office to gain total control of the media by its statements, threats and now, manifested actions,” the UWP continued, adding that this brings to the fore the SLP’s failed attempt, several years ago, at passing legislation to achieve that goal.
“It is sad that a government, elected by the people to uphold the law, would now turn on its people by infringing upon their fundamental democratic rights, traditions and freedom of the press in Saint Lucia. Therefore, the United Workers Party stands ready to defend ‘freedom of speech’ which is a constitutional right of all Saint Lucians, including that of Mr Timothy Poleon,” the UWP concluded.
Meanwhile, the International Press Institute (IPI) has said that La Corbiniere’s comments, even if they do not end up in concrete legal action, represent potential intimidation of the press and are therefore without question a cause for concern.
A previous US ambassador to the region once referred to threats of this nature as "a standard political bully tactic".