Editorial: Your voice, own it!

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It was a bit of a shocker to hear the news that the estate of the late Samuel “Fergie” Derrick was planning to divest all of its shares in the operating companies of the OBSERVER Media Group of Companies (OMG), selling most of its shares to the people of Antigua and Barbuda and gifting the remainder to the staff. It was not something that anyone saw coming, and it left so many questions when we heard the press release being read.
If that statement came as a shock to you, we will bring you up to speed. The family of Samuel “Fergie” Derrick, co-founder of OMG, has recently announced that it has decided to divest itself of its 50 percent shareholding in The Daily Observer Ltd. and Observer Radio Ltd. These are the operating companies of the group, which publish The Daily OBSERVER and operate Observer Radio and Hitz FM.
Forty-five percent of the shareholding will be offered to the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda and the remainder will be gifted to the staff to be operated as a communal trust by the active employees (at any time) to have a say in the future of the companies.
There are terms and conditions, as you would expect, but the question that is at the top of everyone’s minds is, why? The Daily OBSERVER is near a quarter century old. It was the brainchild of brothers Samuel and Winston Derrick and the Derrick family who have been the guardians of free speech in our bit of paradise since its birth. There have been others that have popped up but OBSERVER has stayed the course and stood true to the organisation’s motto: “Let there be light!” So, why? And, why now?
Knowing that would be the number one question, it appears as the number one question and answer in the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of the estate’s website, antiguaobservershares.com.
In answering the question, “why is the estate of the late Samuel “Fergie” Derrick selling its shares of The Daily Observer and Observer Radio now,” the principals of the estate said, “Fergie, who was a co-founder of the Observer Media Group of Companies, always believed that OBSERVER should be in the hands of the people. Only then, did he think that the future would be secure and out of the reach of politicians and special interests. The sale is also an effort to safeguard your voice by seeking to ensure the long-term survivability of the companies. A free and fair media in Antigua & Barbuda is vital to our democracy, and it is the overarching goal of everyone.”
For anyone who knew Fergie Derrick, this is entirely in keeping with his character. Fergie, like his brother Winston, was a super patriot. Observer was never a vanity ownership opportunity or a get-rich quick scheme. It was a labour of love, and it took a lot of hard work to keep the doors open.
 It may seem normal now, but the concept of a free press, where anyone could have a say, was unheard of just 25 years ago. What we take for granted today was something of which we were deprived of not too long ago. And if we are not careful to safeguard this beautiful opportunity, we could be plunged into those dark days again. So, now it is up to us, each and every Antiguan and Barbudan, at home and abroad, to seize this opportunity with both hands. It is our voice, and we should own it! We should not allow ourselves to let this opportunity slip from our grasp. For a tomorrow without an Observer means being force-fed a daily diet of political propaganda with no option. It is a frightening thought. And for a mere U.S. $100, it is cheap insurance.
Old people would say, “yuh never mis de water til de well run dry!” So true! Our thirst for independent news would go unquenched as the only options would be different coloured kool-aid.
Fergie had a desire “to see a free and fair media in Antigua & Barbuda which is beyond the control of the government and private special interests.” That should be our dream as well. Our democracy requires that there is a free press because without it, the excesses of power will have no restraint.
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Charles Yancey, wrote, “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will, the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information.” He concluded, “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”
The time is now! Let us all safeguard our freedoms. Let us own our voice. Your political persuasion is irrelevant. It makes no difference who you back or what your philosophy is because we all need to step-up and ensure that there is a place where all voices can be heard without fear or favour. A permanent home for the voice of the people! Act now!

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