EDITORIAL: Politicking for politicking sake

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The difference between us and politicians is that we live in the light and do not deal in half-truths and innuendo. If we cannot verify something or it offends our decency, we do not publish it.  And we do not broadcast it. You know where we are going with this, don’t you?
The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) has decided to use an honest mistake to continue its misguided attacks against this media house. In a recent press release, the ABLP claimed that the sky is falling and that “Observer radio has been censoring paid advertisements by the ABLP by refusing to carry them without any explanation.”
Their story begins with reference to an email sent by our General Manager, Caecilia Derrick, asking for clarification regarding some advertisements that the party asked to be played on radio.
The original email from Neil Butler, the media coordinator for the ABLP and the one who requested the advertisements on behalf of the party, simply stated: “Please see the attached ads.  Please do not play ads back to back.”  That email was received after business hours on Monday March 5, at 8:42 p.m.
Our GM responded the next day at 11:20 a.m. asking for clarification: “I need instructions from you as it relates to these ads.  Do we replace the existing ads with these [new] ones or do we simply add these ads to the mix?” 
Being inundated with advertising requests from several of the political parties, she made a simple mistake and copied the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Damani Tabor, on the email.  Twenty-two short minutes later, she realised the mistake and corrected it, by again copying all parties (Butler and Tabor) stating: “Damani,  Sorry. I did not mean to send these ads to you. They are ads for the ABLP, not the UPP.  Please disregard this email.”
It is critical to note that the emails were transparent.  All parties knew of the mistake and were copied on every bit of communication.  All within 22 minutes!  As well, all five ABLP radio advertisements in this specific instance were played as requested.  
That small error, which was acknowledged, and included an apology, has turned into a giant phony conspiracy where the ABLP has taken the giant leap in political spin to state that the honest mistake is “in clear violation of every legal responsibility to a client,” and “also smacks of political bias and partisanship.”  Their fake distress is so great that they feel the need to advise “the public, and the groups officially observing the general elections.”  Well, we welcome any of the groups officially observing the general elections to visit our small media house at any time they would like. We can do that because we live in the light and are committed to transparency.  
Now to this whole censorship thing! We have made it clear to all the political parties that the content carried on Observer radio and in The Daily OBSERVER must not be defamatory and must meet our standards. We do not take legal advice regarding issues of possible defamation from political parties nor do we ask them to set our standards.
Also, we will not carry advertisements that make unsubstantiated claims that a political opponent is “an exploiter of young women as sex workers” or “a woman oppressor.” These are allegations that are presented as fact but are not backed by any solid evidence.
Others may not set and possess the standards we do at OBSERVER, but we will not drop ours to satisfy any party’s lust for political office.  
If we have to suffer the scorn of their supporters for that, then we will do so with our heads held high. By the way, we would love for the Labour Party to reveal the name of the attorneys who cleared these advertisements.
Meanwhile, the amateur attempt at political spin is transparent in the argument regarding the infamous billboard in the Prime Minister’s constituency.  The author attempts to paint a picture that “The Billboard ad … simply objects to the violation of a six-year old child and calls for respect for the principles of decency and responsibility which are valued principles in our society” and that OBSERVER casually rejected the ad without explanation.
Oh please!  OBSERVER Media has been clear on our position regarding the billboard.  We have criticised the billboard and said, “The exploitation of children and family members for political gain is wrong.”  So, ‘wheel and come again’ with your feeble finger-pointing.
As with all half-truths, there is a failure to provide illumination on the other half.  The key allegation in the advertisement was already rejected by the UPP, and in the world of media (in our bit of paradise anyway), that means that if we repeat the allegation, already denied by the party, and it is proven false and defamatory, then we pay the fine.
What reputable and responsible media company would take that kind of risk? We care little if other privately-owned media companies have played the advertisements. They, for some reason, do not get sued and do not seem to care about the law or facts. Plus, they have their standards and we have ours.  We have chosen not to compromise ours. 
If there is one lesson in all of this, it is for the political parties.  Just because you feel that you have “paid” for an advertisement, does not mean that you have paid for OBSERVER to risk its businesses or drop its standards!  And speaking of paying for advertisements, when are we going to collect the outstanding monies from the 2014 election?
 We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.
 

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