EDITORIAL - Minding Barbados' business
We are privileged that someone of such importance as Barbados' minister of industry and international business, Donville Inniss, who, in current circumstances, we would expect to be extremely busy, would take the time to note, much more respond to, the comments of this newspaper.
As it is, Mr Inniss has advised The Gleaner to mind its own business and to pay attention to "the rot in Jamaica", which, like Barbados, is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and a partner in regional affairs.
Unhappily, we offended the goodly Mr Inniss with our observations on Sunday about the arrest of three journalists at Barbados' Nation newspaper - publisher Vivian-Anne Gittens; Roy Morris, the editor-in-chief; and Sanka Price, the news editor - for publishing a photograph of two minors having sex at school.
AD HOMINEM ATTACK
It is unfortunate that Mr Inniss ignored the fundamental issues raised by this newspaper and limited his response to what many would interpret as an ad hominem attack on Jamaica.
The essentials of our argument remain the same: this newspaper is not in favour of the gratuitous publication of pornography by general-interest, family-oriented newspapers, and we are against the exploitation of children in any form. We know that these are principles to which The Nation subscribes.
We believe that 14-year-olds having sex in schools and a newspaper's attempt to have the authorities focus on issues of values and attitudes are matters of public interest. The Nation, by its publication of a blurred photograph in which the children could not be identified, did nothing that, in our view, was exploitative or prurient and could be considered to have scandalised public morals.
We continue to believe that Barbados has been a leader in the English-speaking Caribbean in liberalising its laws relating to defamation, lessening, it appeared then, the threat to journalists going about their jobs of informing the public.
In that context, we are surprised that criminal action could be brought against journalists in this fashion, albeit not via the Defamation Act. We fear that the potential of five-year jail terms, which could be the fate of The Nation's trio, could have a chilling effect on the press in Barbados.
FREE PRESS HINDERED
We repeat our hope that this prosecution does not represent a misguided attempt at restraining the independence of The Nation which would be a reversal of Barbados' long-held commitment to a free press. We look forward to an assurance from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart that this is not the case.
Further, we expect to hear from PM Stuart that fulminations by any of his ministers about any partner Caribbean country are not the policy of his government and are not an indication of Barbados' rejection of economic partnership with, or investment from, enterprises of any specific CARICOM member state.
Additionally, there are many problems in Jamaica which we wish we had avoided and which we hope our Eastern Caribbean partner has escaped and on which the authorities in Bridgetown would be advised to pay close attention to before they become worse.
Among these are declining values and attitudes and moral decline among the youth. Mr Inniss, given his portfolio, might be interested in issues such as management of the public debt and policies that encourage investment and economic growth.
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