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The public’s right to know

rhondathompson, [email protected]

The public’s right to know

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THE CENTRAL BANK OF BARBADOS has sought to clarify its ban on this newspaper attending its Press conferences by issuing a statement to the effect that, “The bank assures all practitioners in Barbados as well as the public at large that it will continue to keep all media houses fully abreast of all developments on economic and other pertinent matters which fall under its purview, including the Nation Publishing Company, as is normal.”
This assertion fails to recognise the concern that this newspaper and others have expressed over the unjustified decision, in our view, by its Governor, Dr DeLisle Worrell, to debar our attendance at his events.
The bank’s ignorance of this subtle distinction is reinforced when the statement goes on to gratuitously suggest that access to the bank’s website is free to the media and the public, and that Press releases will be sent to THE NATION.
We insist in the interest of accountability and transparency, that all media should have access to all Press conferences sponsored by institutions of the Government of Barbados. We do not believe that our role should be reduced to performing public relations functions for the Central Bank of Barbados or any department or agency of Government which the wholesale distribution of press releases implies.
We have achieved this sense of entitlement through the diligence of our effort and the proven track record of a newspaper that, though junior in age to the other printed publication, and vastly senior to the other digital effort, sustains its reach into the homes of a majority of the citizens of this country who have a right to know what is taking place on their behalf.
Ours is not a record of recklessness. We are not a newspaper of notorious offenders either. We have brought to the media industry a sense of responsible service to country, fighting the causes that lack assistance and defending the wrongs that need resistance.
We are therefore offended by the suggestion made by Dr Worrell that this newspaper, though not welcome to his events, as stated in his letter of May 9, will continue to have access to the documents he and his officers prepare and circulate.
Thanks, Dr Worrell, but no thanks. It is your function to issue Press releases but ours goes beyond making them available to the public. And we are emphatic that this be recognised.
The notion of Dr Worrell that this newspaper is not banned but can have access to the Press releases is an admission that he expects us, and by extension, possibly other media, to function in a role as publishers of Press releases, and distributors of officially prepared versions of data and developments.
It may be that Dr Worrell is influenced by current practice in some quarters of the media, but he should know from observing our performance from inception that we have standards and satisfy expectations far higher because our mantra is for a greater cause, the future in the distance and the good that we seek to do.
Any type of journalism that falls short of the high ideals on which this profession is founded and to which, on November 23, 1973, this newspaper ascribed, is not for us, sir.
Though late, Dr Worrell may yet want to discover the social responsibility of the media and not assume that the wholesale lifting of statements, regurgitation of Press releases and glamourising of website pronouncements is how we exercise our stewardship on behalf of citizens.
We carry out our exercise in trust for the public. Many readers, and Dr Worrell may be among this misguided group, think that this trust can be manipulated or violated. Our purpose is to reach a consensus as to what the public may reasonably expect from us in terms of ethical standards and practice, and execute it.
We exist to seek clarification for the wider public; to ask questions; to urge accountability; and to ferret out the facts behind decision-making, beyond printing Press releases.
We recognise the right of the Governor of the Central Bank and members of the public to question our decision-making and performance and we know the onus is on us to defend the choices we make.
We will continue to ensure that our actions can stand public scrutiny.
And as we did last week, we accept responsibility to be accountable for all our actions in the exercise of the freedoms that we enjoy as members of the media.
Through robust engagement at Press conferences we have chosen to facilitate thought and discussion, not stifle it. We will advance the progress of our society, not thwart it through complicity. We will not encourage blind spots or create complacency and self-satisfaction based on merely printing what officials say.
We will not be party to any arrangement to impose on the people of Barbados an exclusive diet of officially prepared handouts, particularly at a time when, for instance, we have a Government which as recently as Tuesday went to the House of Assembly with a resolution to raise the limit of Treasury bill borrowing from $2.75 billion to an unprecedented $4 billion.