Current Affairs

Current Affairs



No, Mr Shaw
Jamaica Observer Editorial
Thursday, September 12, 2002



WE were wondering when it would happen and who would be first.

For it was almost inevitable. Entirely predictable.

Some politician, in the midst of the election campaign, was bound to accuse the press of bias and inadequate coverage of his party.

Mr Audley Shaw, the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) spokesman on finance, gained the dubious distinction of being the first complainer.

Speaking in Ocho Rios last week, he claimed that the press -- electronic and print -- was failing to properly reflect the activities and speeches of JLP officials and pointedly asked whether this alleged failure was a deliberate strategy to enhance the ruling People's National Party (PNP).

Mr Shaw, of course, knows that his statement is nonsense, having no basis in fact, and, at best, is a figment of his imagination. Or more likely, contrived to put pressure on the press to give greater play to JLP campaign events and speeches by its officials.

On the face of it, therefore, it would seem to make sense to have ignored Mr Shaw's comments, having come to the position that he is entitled to his opinions, however bad they are.

The fact though, is that in the current environment, we believe a response is necessary. For the JLP has the support of a significant portion, perhaps even the majority, of the Jamaican electorate and could, not long from now, form the government of this country.

We believe that in the circumstance of Jamaica, and in the context of our own philosophy, the press has a responsibility to be balanced and fair to all parties, adequately covering the policies, programmes, initiatives and campaign activities.

This does not necessarily mean covering every meeting or every remark, statement or declaration of every candidate of this or that party. Rather, it is for the press to adequately represent, in the broader sweep of events, the policies and positions of the parties, particularly their fundamental issues.

Which we would expect Mr Shaw to understand and embrace in a serious and mature fashion, rather than adopting the potentially dangerous course from the charged platform of a political meeting.

We would hate for any supporter of any political party to misunderstand a claim of bias on the part of the press and seek to discipline, and dictate, to reporters how they should report stories. For neither physical nor moral coercion will work.

But we all know that despite last week's cynical outburst, Mr Shaw remains a friend of the press, which he has utilised with great efficacy in promoting his ideals... and to foster a reputation.

The bottom line, we think, is that Mr Shaw, as we say in Jamaica, was trying a thing; a little moral blackmail, perhaps, in search of an advantage.

The danger is that he might be misunderstood.

Except for the views expressed in the columns above, the articles published on this page do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Jamaica Observer.