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OUR CARIBBEAN: Don’t shoot the messenger for a painful message

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Don’t shoot the messenger for a painful message

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In a functioning democracy it is to be expected that there would be many voices competing for attention on issues of national importance, be it of a political, religious, cultural or social nature. And the role of the media – print or electronic – must reflect, with credibility, such views within the context of the rule of law and respect for personal privacy.
I have embraced this general concept as a practitioner of the journalism profession over the many years I have had the privilege – and still do – to work for media enterprises across our Caribbean Community, variously in print, radio and wire services.
In the process, I came to better appreciate why it is wrong to shy away from reporting or commenting on events and developments as they occur. Equally important is that the consumers of news – readers, viewers or listeners – should avoid “shooting the messenger”,  as the saying goes, when they disagree with or dislike the particular “message”.
I reminded myself of this need for mutual respect against the backdrop of some quite emotional responses to the news story published in the last SATURDAY SUN – a publication of the Nation Publishing Company. Headlined Sex Scene, the article, written by an established, award-winning professional journalist, was accompanied by a video-originated photo – skilfully cropped to avoid exposing the identity of two secondary school students engaged in sex in a classroom.
It so happened that the photograph of that deplorable act was already in circulation, prior to publication in the newspaper — thanks to the Facebook culture that has become so much a grim feature of our changing lifestyles, and located for all and sundry to access on the worldwide web.
Parents and grandparents may lament and even cry over the continuing immorality and callousness in homes and at schools and blame the vulgarities that are now standard fare on the web. On the other hand today’s youth, some from primary school age, as well as some parents and guardians, seem ever-ready to rationalize immoral practices.
The combination of factors involve poor parenting, deficiencies in the education system and reluctance by sections of the media, as well as religious and cultural organizations to encourage and sustain ethical and moral practices at all levels.
Therefore, those now decrying the publication of the “sex scene” article should take care not to “shoot the messenger” for simply reporting, with much care, on a disgusting act that reflects a horrible, painful social reality. It is grievous to note that the deplorable behaviour of the two students is not a peculiarity of the Barbadian social environment.
The sin and shame of spreading immorality prevail across this Caribbean region. Much of this has to do with the foreign lifestyles and practices we seem so anxious to embrace.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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