Freedom of speech under attack by Turks and Caicos government

0
Minister for Home Affairs, Public Utilities and Transportation, Goldray Ewing

By Caribbean News Now contributor

GRAND TURK, TCI – “Expressions,” a top-rated talk show on Radio Turks and Caicos (RTC) has been forced off the air by the ministry of home affairs, public utilities and transportation, a government official confirmed Wednesday. Some are calling the move, an attack on freedom of speech.

Goldray Ewing is the minister who heads the ministry of home affairs, public utilities and transportation. Ewing’s name, however, did not appear on the official government press release, which has drawn scepticism if Ewing was involved with the decision to suspend Herbert Been, “Expressions” host and a longtime supporter of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM).

The decision to take the favourite talk show off the airwaves was no surprise to ardent listeners, as less than a week before the ban, Been complained on-air that he was receiving too many complaints about how he was hosting “Expressions.” Been said that the complaints involved him not defending Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and also that he was allowing listeners who called his live radio show to criticise her job performance as premier.

According to insiders, Cartwright-Robinson has “a fragile ego” and is not particularly fond of the criticism of her on RTC. Another quipped that the premier doesn’t deal with criticism well. In March, Cartwright-Robinson angrily lashed out at the leader of the opposition, Washington Missick over an article by Caribbean News Now that he was banned from being a guest on “Expressions.” Missick would later seek to clarify that he was not banned but instead, temporarily banned. An explanation that further confused the bewildering situation even further.

The government press release did not state the exact reasons behind the recent “Expressions” ban, which will prevent the show from being broadcast to the entire Turks and Caicos and the world via the internet.

In Wednesday’s government press release, the decision given for taking “Expressions” off the air was vague, stating that the ban was due to the talk show’s delivery and content.

“Taking into account the role of a national radio station, the ministry of home affairs public utilities and transportation has taken a policy decision to temporarily suspend airing of the live talk show, ‘Expressions,’ commencing June 12, 2019. During this period a thorough review will be undertaken to ensure that the objectives of the programme are being met and that the delivery and content are consistent with the tone and messages of a developing and civil society.”

The statements from Ewing’s ministry comes several days after a frequent caller known as “Jackie” called into the talk show to release her frustration with the job performance of Cartwright-Robinson:

“…I gotta get this in, the honourable premier, for God’s sake, give me the keys to the country. Let me show you how to run the country because you are not doing a good job. You’re falling down. I told you not to go to England and drink that tea. From the time you went to England and drink that tea, you come back and you’ve gone quiet. Let me run this country. Let a real woman takeover and you can sit back and watch. Look, learn and listen; you all have a nice day.”

A clip of that call has gone viral on social media in Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas. It is believed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, resulting in “Expressions” and Been taken off air as of June 7, even though the government’s release states that the ban took effect June 12.

RTC director Christopher Jarrett declined to comment about the ban.

According to a former RTC board member, this is not the first time that the show had been pulled off the air. He said, often political leaders treat RTC like it is their private radio station. The former board member continued that usually, bans like these occur in the heat of an election campaign but both the premier and her deputy are thin-skinned.

“It’s because callers criticise the government,” he said. “Even if you’re a supporter of the premier’s political party [PDM], if you criticise them, you’re viewed as an enemy of the government. Free speech is not welcomed in the Turks and Caicos. The banning of “Expressions” by the ministry of home affairs, public utilities and transportation violates the TCI constitution, and it violates human rights,” the former board member said.

On the May 18-24 edition of the TC Weekly News, ‘Under the Tree’ which is drawn by Benneth Williams, greatly angered the government. Williams ignited a political firestorm with the release of his cartoon depicting three public workers at Providenciales International Airport chained to the money-making facility. They are seen asking government ministers about holidays and overtime, as they are ignored and told to carry on working. A government press release on Tuesday (May 28) said: “It is necessary for the ministry responsible to clarify and correct the article for the benefit of the general public.”

Caribbean News Now reached out to the premier and the ministry of home affairs, public utilities and transportation for comment, but no response had been received by press time.

print

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.