The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) has condemned the action Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados (CBB), Dr Delisle Worrell, has taken against The Nation newspaper, describing it as “absolutely unacceptable”.
In a statement issued today, ACM general secretary Wesley Gibbings insisted that Worrell’s decision to block the newspaper from attending the bank’s Press conferences and other events ran contrary to the freedom of the Press.
Worrell had accused the newspaper of lacking professional integrity over a story headlined 60 To Go that appeared in last Thursday’s Daily Nation claiming that 60 bank employees would be sent home due to financial difficulties. The Nation subsequently sought to clarify the report, while admitting that the number of people to be sent home was not definite as its headline suggested.
But in an unprecented move, Worrell subsequently sent a letter to the newspaper stating that “consequent upon the lack of professional integrity” manifest in the headline, the media house’s staff would not be invited to any future Press conference or media event hosted by him as Governor of the Central Bank. Then yesterday, the bank issued a statement saying it “respects and embraces freedom of the Press” and had not banned The Nation since it would still receive Press releations and other communications.
However, Gibbings condemned the action, saying: “That the Governor should see nothing wrong with issuing his initial declaration betrays several key areas of misunderstanding regarding the degree to which state institutions are required to operate under conditions that are transparent and which demand a high degree of accountability; the true nature of free expression in relation to the work of the media and a belief that impunity on matters of Press freedom will routinely prevail.
“The subsequent Press release by the Bank of May 12 arrogantly dismisses the suggestion that dropping one of the country’s leading newspapers from the bank’s list of invitees to Press conferences and other opportunities to question official statements and to obtain further insights into key economic developments runs contrary to freedom of the Press,” he added.
Gibbings said he was appalled and outraged by the lack of rigorous public discussion on the matter. He has urged the entire media fraternity to condemn the move.
“. . . I am surprised that other media players do not recognize the implications of such a move on their place in the scheme of things. The entire media fraternity needs to get off the fence on this one. This is not the stuff under which healthy media competition flourishes.
“The Barbados Association of Journalists should be joined by the entire media and civil society community in condemning this move and calling for even more openness on the part of those whose roles through difficult economic times are of significant importance,” Gibbings added.