If you are a fan of classical literature, you were probably reminded of the William Shakespeare play, Hamlet, after hearing the protestations of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and his disproportionate and over-the-top response to a recent editorial entitled, “The dirty war against the free press.” In the play, Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude criticises the insincere, flowery words spoken by an actor, stating, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The gist of the criticism is that the language of the actor playing the queen is far too excessive to be considered believable.
The editorial in question was simple enough. We were asked to join a global effort to highlight the attacks on free press and give our perspective on the issues that confront free media, as we all defend ourselves against unwarranted attacks by politicians and their minions. We do not like to get into any public arguments with politicians, and we will not do so now. We will simply use facts to pinpoint the fallacies in the arguments presented by the PM and those who have pledged to do his bidding. This may be a lengthy one.
The PM starts by putting words in our mouth. He says, “It is absolutely amazing that the Observer is seeking to blame the ABLP for its difficulties.” Never have we sought to blame the ABLP for all of our difficulties. We have been succinct in the way we have reported on the impacts of the attacks and their impacts on our operations. The PM’s actions and words have contributed greatly, but if the PM is seeking to take all the credit then that is a matter between him and his conscience.
The PM’s protests then turn-up the usual spin game with a pat on the back for removing criminal libel and then an attack on the United Progressive Party (UPP), stating, that there “has been more litigations against Observer by UPP Ministers than ABLP Ministers” and more corruption. Considering that we are currently under two lawsuits from ABLP ministers in the form of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, we are not sure where the PM gets his misinformed legal opinion. As for the corruption charges, this is more of the same. We heard the same accusations from the UPP, and those went nowhere. Right now, the only action on this rampant corruption, to which the PM eludes, is a few buses along with the Board of Education issue, which has not been too explosive. For the record, we believe that anyone who was or is part of wrongdoing should meet justice.
The PM and his servants always like to use general criticism as a weapon and refuse to get specific. They talk of “bias,” “fake news,” etc., but they never point to any reporting originating with OBSERVER that supports the unfounded accusations. But this is not about specific actions. It is about branding OBSERVER as an opposition voice and attempting to discredit the organisation. The PM says, “OMG gave ABLP a failing grade for reducing the debt to GDP to 68 Percent.” When? That never happened. He said, we “lauded Sandals for holding onto to $100M of our ABST and berated me and my government.” Again, never happened. The same goes for his criticism of the investment in WIOC. If anything, this is evidence of the PM and his cronies peddling fake news.
The PM seems to be upset that we report news fairly and accurately. For example, when the Public Relations Officer of the UPP makes allegations on live radio, that is news. He is a man of some political stature, and our responsibility is to inform the public of what he says. Of course, he needs evidence to make any type of allegation, but the point is, we did not originate any story about the PM and the CIP. By the way, this is the topic of the lawsuit that we seek to defend ourselves against.
Then, there is this doozy of a fabrication. The PM said, “OMG principals met routinely with a former US political officer in Bridgetown.” Absolutely untrue. As a matter of fact, no OMG principal in the current management team has ever met a political officer in Bridgetown; let alone routinely. Further, we have never consulted with the U.S. State Department on their reports. That is an untruth, and the PM knows it to be so. Maybe his paranoia has concocted a fantastical tale of a conspiracy with us and the State Department, but that is simply not true. The PM then takes the attacks to a ridiculous level and states that we have engaged in “treasonous behavior” and has labelled us a “liability to the state.” He has not divulged one shred of evidence to back his damaging attacks because none exists, but he says it anyway with impunity. Or, as he put it, he has “failed to produce a scintilla of evidence.”
For the PM to talk about what the government spends with the Observer is laughable. First, you spend where your word reaches the largest audience, so that is why OBSERVER is the first choice. At the same time, the PM needs to let the people know just how much the government pays out to OMG each year. Ask him how much the ABLP owes for the 2014 and 2018 elections. It is all a part of the economic assault on our company. Use our resources and then neglect payment.
The PM and the ABLP continue to say that we are aligned with the UPP and that we received a subsidy for electricity. Again, let us be clear. These unfounded allegations are untrue, and the PM should bring the evidence when he makes these deliberately damaging statements. OBSERVER has never received any subsidy on electricity in its existence. The PM knows this, but he continues to be a stranger to the truth in this regard. Further, OBSERVER has never been aligned with any political party and has never received financial support from any party or any politician. Our support comes from the people, and the PM knows that. It is why he is hell-bent of spinning a long tale in order to try to turn the people against us.
On the topic of these claims of bias, why doesn’t the PM tell the public that he and the ABLP have been invited, formally and informally, since their victory in 2014, to occupy the Thursday edition of Voice of the People? Why doesn’t he let the people know that the ABLP was invited to be part of a regular evening program on OBSERVER Radio? Why? Because that does not fit the narrative that OBSERVER is biased against the ABLP. Nonsense!
He claims that our “programming became rabidly political, stale and offensive to many.” But run through our programming, from the Birthday Club in the morning to Serpent in the Snake Pit at night, and that allegation cannot stand any objective scrutiny. Where is the “rabid political reporting?” It does not exist. Is he basing his generalisations on his dislike for Serpent’s show?
If there is “evil intent” or “bile” in anyone’s stomach, it is not at OBSERVER. Ask anyone who works here. There is never a political or other dictate that influences content. But none of this is about truth or what is best for our country. It is what is best for Gaston Browne and the ABLP. The blatant and unfounded attacks are betrayed by the PM’s own words. He has directed his attacks against the Derricks who number only three in the organisation, and made claims about the organisation’s payroll that are unfounded. He puts words in the mouths of certain people knowing that he can rely on their character that they will not bark back.
But probably the most telling and revealing are his claims that OBERVER is his favourite radio station, a claim that we believe, by the way. But how can the PM say that his favourite radio station is a purveyor of “fake news,” is politically aligned and harbours “evil intent?” How can he say that he loves a media organisation that is biased, engages in “treasonous behavior” and is a “liability to the state?” The answer is simple. We are his favourite because we do none of those things. It is clear that the PM doth protest too much.
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