SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Wednesday described the government’s intended media policy as its latest attempt to lie, hide and control information to the public, but stressed that the local media has to acknowledge that it played a role in creating the monster it now faces.
“What the government is trying to do is not surprising at all. This government is untrustworthy, dishonest, condescending and inconsistent to say the least. I have said over and over that it cannot be trusted,” the MP said. However, he continued, “Over the past two years the media of St. Maarten have allowed the government’s behavior to fester by not holding them accountable and, in some cases, ignoring issues in the community altogether.”
Emmanuel said he does not believe in silencing or censoring the media or implementing a flawed policy that would infringe on the basic rights of the press. He said what the Prime Minister and her cabinet is attempting is a knee-jerk reaction to what they perceive to be a threat to their web of lies and hidden agendas.
“When people tend to get too close to factual information, this government has a known reputation of throwing up all sorts of road-blocks and outright lying to cover up their actions. The intended media policy is an expansion of these obstacles meant to further isolate the business of the people, from the people,” MP Emmanuel said, adding that the government and its extra-long toes and ultra-thin skin has never been able to handle or accept critique and pertinent questions, as has been proven in Parliament on numerous occasions.
It is in that context, the MP stressed, that the media has failed St. Maarten. He explained that members of the media have sat through press briefings accepting and publishing “ridiculous” stories and lies from the current Ministers. He said the media, especially through its Editorials and online opinion, exhibits too much of an “all’s well that ends well” attitude, failing to push accountability or only doing so for certain individuals.
“The media created a Council of Ministers that became used to skating through press briefings with no accountability. The media allowed the COM to insult them with snide, condescending remarks. This continued for so long, the COM developed zero respect for this push-over media. So once the COM felt like their fluffy press briefings were being threatened by a media core that they do not respect or perhaps recognize, they initiated a disrespectful policy. There is no way the COM would have gone that route if they respected the media or, more importantly, if the media core of St. Maarten had respected themselves and their profession and fulfilled their role in the community,” MP Emmanuel said.
To be taken seriously, the MP said, the media has to acknowledge that with the power it has, comes great responsibility towards the society and the people/issues it reports on. He added that self-accountability is severely lacking in media circles. “The media here rarely admits when it gets something wrong, especially when it’s reporting contributes to the tarnishing of people’s names,” the MP said.
“A totally impartial media is probably is not possible, but, it is essential to maintain journalistic standards and objectivity. Stories from the court for example, usually tell the prosecutor’s side in great detail, not the defendant. Opposition members of Parliament have their presentations watered down to a paragraph if they are mentioned at all. Media agendas are glaring and therefore lead to no analysis of positions contrary to that agenda, issues are not explained or are often trivialized or sensationalized and we only get cut-and-paste propaganda that the government sends out. I could name many issues that the media have simply not followed-up on or in some cases completely ignored. Media responsibility to the public and to itself is lacking,” MP Emmanuel said.
The MP concluded by re-asserting that the government is going too far in trying to muzzle/censor the media with its new policy. He said developing a media policy in general is not a “bad thing” but such policies must be cohesively developed. “The media is protesting now, and that’s all fine and well, but the media created this monster and it now has to call a spade a spade when it sees it and hold this government accountable for all the lies and deceit it perpetrates on the public on a daily basis.”
The MP also said that a press association or regulatory commission that upholds journalistic standards, allows individuals/organisations redress for unfair treatment and tackles abusive media is also very important. “Police your profession, it is flawed,” he said.