Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Abrahams a defender of media freedom

Published:Saturday | January 21, 2017 | 1:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

It was with great sadness that I learnt on Wednesday, January 18 of the death of Peter Abrahams, the man who, as chairman of Radio Jamaica Limited, appointed me managing director in 1978. Peter was a journalistic dynamo, a visionary, and a steadfast defender of Jamaica, of workers, and of media rights and freedom.

He was a champion of freedom for people everywhere. Barely five feet tall, Peter's thinking and his analysis of issues and business principles were incisive and penetrative. He believed in a holistic approach to what was to be done and he was convinced, and convinced others, that there was more good in each man than we often recognise. He, therefore, sought to develop and kindle in every director, worker, manager, the very best.

Peter was a no-nonsense man. He was impatient of folly, and he had an acerbic tongue for those who would wish to interfere in the fair and balanced presentation of news and current affairs. On a board that had political representatives, Peter helped to convince them to defend RJR's independence and journalistic rights. To him, Radio Jamaica's independence was more sacrosanct than any political dictate.

Fittingly, the South Africa-born journalist and writer, who had to flee his home into exile for writing against the racist apartheid system, was in the vanguard of the change in Radio Jamaica's ownership from British to Jamaican. On behalf of the company and its management, he lobbied government officials, unions and other influential interests to develop the model that saw trade unions, credit unions, churches and other mass representative organisations owning a piece of Radio Jamaica, with none owning more than 10 per cent - a structure which has singularly preserved the most independent editorial management structure in media in this country.

Peter was a strategist of no equal. His guile and astute approaches with management served Radio Jamaica well. His consultations with thenewsroom helped insulate it from any political influence.

And then, there were his news commentaries - the most simply written, powerfully stated breath of opinions based on facts drawn from far and wide. His experience and his visionary perspectives cemented Radio Jamaica's journalistic class above the rest of what was being offered for decades. He took that insight and skill into political discourse, election coverage, and all major news events in the country.

He served Radio Jamaica as chairman from September 23, 1977 to June 25, 1980 - three powerful years in our history.

Radio Jamaica is greatly indebted to Peter Abrahams for the role he has played in a crucial time in our company's life with a contribution that neither I, nor Radio Jamaica, will ever forget!

J. LESTER SPAULDING

Chairman, Radio Jamaica Ltd