EDITORIAL: An instrument of responsible journalism
During this week 40 years ago, our newspaper was in the last seven days of what might be called its gestation period, and within a few days all Barbados was able to welcome the birth of a locally owned post-colonial newspaper.
It was and is a singular event of immense proportions and if we have succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of our most fervent supporters, it is because we have always adhered to being, and continue right up to this present day to be, practitioners of what the great legal minds in the highest courts applicable to this country and to the wider Commonwealth have described in the last decade as the “principles of responsible journalism”.
We have always been aware that the publication of a newspaper is a political, financial and legal minefield; and therefore from our very start we have encouraged and maintained high ethical operational standards.
We have always been vigilant in our resolve at every turn to insist on respect for the rule of law and for our democracy.
We were born on the cusp of the incipient and even greater threats to the freedom of the Press which were raising their ugly heads in this region and reflecting the oppressive and autocratic and anti-democratic features of the earlier times.
Shortly after we came on to the scene, there was the Antigua Times case, which upheld as valid a law which stipulated for the first time in these parts that newspapers could be ordered by legislation to put up a sum in cash or bond to pay prospective litigants who might be defamed by the operations of newspapers.
This development, which took effect even in the face of our constitutional right to freedom of expression, had a chilling impact on some Caribbean newspaper operations.
Yet, if we were to be encouraged in our quest we could not have had greater motivation than from an editorial leader which appeared in The Times of London in July 1967, six years before our birth, under the hand of its then young 36-year-old editor William (later Lord) Rees Mogg.
Concerned at what he thought were repressive prison sentences passed on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones for the possession of seasickness tablets, which were legal in France where they bought them, but required prescriptions in London, he severely criticized the magistrates in so powerful a lead article that within two days the two members of the group were released from prison.
The matter was later dealt with by the Appeal Court, which altered the harsh sentences passed on the two performers.
It was an inspiring and powerful lighthouse restatement of the Press as an instrument of responsible journalism, lancing the pustules of the society and exposing injustices and the excess use of power at all levels of the society, while responding to an enquiring public opinion.
As we approach the anniversary of our founding we are certain that we must face the next 40 years with a clear road map that guides our way with the landmarks of our limitless responsibility to our country, and for the rule of law and for our company’s unyielding adherence at all times to the highest ethical standards of responsible journalism.