Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Sharpen focus on threats to press freedom, says Allen

Published:Wednesday | August 23, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Allen

New president of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Gary Allen, has urged regional media to sharpen their focus on press freedom while underscoring the value of the existing indigenous broadcasters to the region's continuing development.

Addressing the opening ceremony of 48th Annual General Assembly of the CBU in Nassau, The Bahamas, on Monday, Allen, who is the CEO of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, noted that the Caribbean is blessed to have a reasonably good track record in press freedom. But he warned that in many of the countries, more needs to be done.

"There are some clear and some oblique threats to freedom of the press, through how access is managed and how state advertising is shared. For the next year, we must, as a union, sharpen our focus on monitoring direct and indirect threats to press freedom around us," said Allen.

"Whether it is in Venezuela, where journalists are at risk or it is with Al Jazeera being shut out and marginalised in some areas, we must be intolerant of actions that hinder press freedom.

"We must always be on the side of a free media - yes, a responsible media, but one that is truly free because there are no laws, no regulations and no policies curtailing the access to, or freedom of, the media to hold those in authority accountable, especially as they exercise power," added Allen.

The new CBU head also called for a thoughtful plan for regional media formulated in national and regional policies.

Noting that the region is going through a challenging and costly transition from analogue to digital technology, Allen called for regional policymakers and regulators to rationally consider the implications of this move.

"There is work to be done in highlighting the value of the existing indigenous media industry to the region's continuing development," said Allen.

"The Caribbean cannot afford to run helter skelter after 'new' technology if the result is the destruction of our capacity to tell our own stories.

"We cannot rely on externally based media centres, to prioritise our people's needs for accurate, relevant public information, especially in times of emergency," added Allen.

He warned that the region cannot afford a mistake of abandoning its indigenous (traditional), credible, public-serving media in times like those when credible media are essential and not just 'social'.

The CBU's assembly continues today and ends tomorrow.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com