Editorial: Huff and puff

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The story is well known – – perhaps one of the most memorable from our childhood days. It is the amusing one of the three little pigs, and the big bad wolf who declared that he will huff and puff and blow their houses down. Of course, he could not blow down the house that was built of bricks.
In like manner, we have seen some in officialdom huffing and puffing about the legality, or lack thereof, under which the New Observer is operating. We have heard certain MPs insisting that the old Observer licence cannot be transferred to a new entity and we have heard still others speaking such inanities as the “New Observer sounding very much like the old Observer,” and so on and so forth. Actually, we are not sure what legal ramifications turn on one media entity sounding much like its new incarnation. We think, not much, so we will not even bother to dignify that wasted thought.
What we can guarantee our many concerned listeners and supporters, some of whom were a bit taken aback at the ruminations of those in high places, is that the New Observer is here to stay! They can jump high and jump low, they will not be able to blow this media house down. We are in this for the long haul! We are prepared to fight to the last breath, even if we have to go to the Privy Council, to ensure that truth is disseminated without let or hindrance.
Consider: On two separate occasions (Tim Hector with print media and Winston Derrick with broadcast), the Privy Council has had to rule on the side of free and independent media here in Antigua and Barbuda. It seems free and dissenting voices are anathema to governments in our fair state. Of course, before they gain power, those governments use the free media to their heart’s content when they are in opposition. Then the minute they seize power, suddenly that erstwhile pillar in our democracy becomes a pox on society. A pox that ought to be excised! And the powers will use every tool at their disposal, every legal trick and technicality to suffocate media houses, especially newborn entities such as ours, in their cribs.
It is an insidious disease of the mind afflicting governments – the disdain and aversion to a media outlet not under their control. We saw it in Saudi Arabia where Jamal Khashoggi was branded as enemy number one. We also see it in Myanmar where two Reuters journalists, War Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been imprisoned for over a year for daring to print the truth, to wit, the ethnic cleansing and other atrocities being meted out to the Rohingya at the hands of the government there. Indeed, it is in recognition of the states of siege under which many media houses have been forced to operate worldwide that TIME magazine saw it fit to name Khashoggi and the two Reuters journalists, as well as the Capital Gazette in Maryland, where five employees were murdered, and Maria Ressa, a critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, as their Person of the Year.
We here at NEWSCO certainly salute TIME and the slain, indicted and imprisoned journalists. The assassination of Khashoggi and the detention of Lone and Oo, and other such high-handed actions against the Fourth Estate have done more to put corrupt regimes under the spotlight than just about anything else.
Meanwhile, we have heard much talk of how this government welcomes the dissenting and questioning voices, and how it will help keep the government on point, and how the government will do all that it can to midwife the New Observer. Here’s hoping that the government is not being disingenuous and blowing smoke … Freedom of the press is an essential element of our democracy! As the great Thomas Jefferson so eloquently declared, “Where the press is free and every man is able to read, all is safe!” Let us hope that the supposed concern for the preservation of free media and the well being of journalists here in Antigua and Barbuda is not the good Brer (much like the aforementioned big, bad wolf) feigning concern and shedding phony tears.
As the TIME editor declared when speaking to the unveiling of the Person of the Year selection, “It [has become] clear that the manipulation and abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year’s major stories.” Enough with the huffing and puffing!

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