for a little background George John, is the BBC of Caribbean media. respected, venerable and very rarely wrong. if all newspapers were run by men like George John, fair, unbiased and accurate coverage would once again prevail. these words seem so far removed from the context of professional journalism lately.

and now without further ado, here is an opinion piece written by George John, culled from the Trinidad Express.

The circumstance that United States Ambassador Roy Austin sent the text of a letter which presumably he wrote to four media houses in Trinidad and none of them published a single line should tell this disciple of Hemingway something.

Mr Austin`s interpretation of the reasons for blanking his message is all wrong. He blames it on the alleged anti-Americanism in the Trinidad and Tobago media, something he has been complaining about almost from the day he first set foot in this blessed land.

No such thing. Trinidad and Tobago newspaper editors have never been in the habit of ganging up against anybody. After all their newspapers are rival organisations seeking to publish news and features of some event or incident that one of them might have captured and which the other side missed.

It`s known, children, as a scoop. And the newspaper that gets the most scoops almost always wins the biggest audiences and thereby the most advertising, leading to the biggest revenues and the biggest profits.

So when four newspaper editors blank such a personality as the American Ambassador, George Bush`s friend and apologist, the answer seems to me to be quite simple.

The newspaper editors must have considered the Austin effusion in the same light that they would view an unwanted load of rubbish. They would have said not in concert but each of them, solo: “Not in my paper.”

If indeed Roy Austin`s diatribe to his audience at the University of the West Indies last Sunday night represents the text of his letter or is an example of that text then in my view the editors were perfectly correct to have refused to burden their readers with it.

Its tone was petulant; its language abrasive or to a large extent abusive; its argument condemning the Trinidad and Tobago media fraudulent; its delivery in that setting, with the evening cool, the stars overhead, the environment amicable and journalists from the four corners of the world in attendance, upsetting.

For his Sunday night excursion was no more than the verbal presentation of a symbol of what the American soldiers were pictured doing to the unhappy Iraqi soldiers they had captured in the one-sided struggle that has been going on in that country for more than a year.

Moreover, the Austin message was delivered for the wrong reason and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have been to a number of Commonwealth Journalists Association conferences in various parts of the world. And while I can understand why the American Ambassador was invited to perform Sunday evening, that is to the launch a new television station, the fact remains that it was somewhat out of place on the CJA agenda. And had he not been blinded by his dislike of the Trinidad and Tobago media, he would have attempted to be more gracious, at least thankful.

For here it is we of the Commonwealth media were gathered together to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, a celebration being highlighted by recognition of the move of the CJA headquarters from London to this country, and all we can get from the American Ambassador is a disgusting offensive against journalists and journalism as practised in this country.

Mr Austin is supposed to be a diplomat. He is representative of a country which cherishes freedom of the press. We, too, cherish that freedom. This freedom is enshrined in both the American Constitution and the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.

This freedom has been abused in one way or another at various times in both countries. But even if the Government of Trinidad and Tobago ever finds it necessary to correct an error in the American media, no spokesman or spokeswoman would be heard shouting it from the rooftops of Washington. Nor would that person be indelicate enough to do so at a time when the Americans were celebrating World Press Freedom Day.

Not only that but Mr Austin also used the occasion to do some public relations work for his government. He boasted how much money Dubya had given the people of the Caribbean to fight Aids and to finance one or two other things.

Mr Austin obviously thinks beggars ought not to be choosers. So if Dubya gives us money, and for this largesse much thanks, he expects us to respond by going down on our knees and saying: “Thank you, Massa.” If, however, Mr Austin knows the history of Trinidad and Tobago he should be aware as far as we are concerned Massa day done long time ago!

The pity is we had to listen to Mr Austin`s churlish attempt at animadversion after hearing the excellent address by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Rex Nettleford.

Nettleford`s statement was replete with the wisdom and the wit for which he is well known. He is one Jamaican who has mastered the art of the Trinidad picong.

It must have surprised Mr Austin. For Nettleford`s humorous description of Dubya as “a weapon of massed distraction” and which I, along with scores of others found extremely funny, roused the Ambassador`s ire to the extent he forgot or ignored the fact the Vice-Chancellor was speaking on his own turf and was entitled to his freedom to speak there even more than the Ambassador.

A lesson for Mr Austin. Freedom of the media means for the journalist freedom to publish without restraints, apart from those imposed by the law.

Freedom of the press means also freedom not to publish when the editor decides his waste basket needs filling.

thanks to pmaha for the link

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