Minister of Communications Symon de Nobriga. Photo: T&T Parliament
WAHT do you call a pig that wears a witch’s hat and lives in the desert?
A ham sand-witch!
This is a joke. Not a particularly good one, but a joke. It is simple, lighthearted, with no chance of negative repercussions…unless told to a vegan.
Do you know what a joke isn’t? A flippant comment about the Government giving preferential treatment to state-owned media companies.
Like many others I was extremely disturbed by Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga’s response to journalist Kejan Hayne’s observation that state owned media companies were being given preferential, if not exclusive, access to Government events.
Here’s the thing with Kejan Haynes, he is an expert in detecting BS and has no qualms about calling it out. So when he noticed state run media entities were being granted access to events that other media houses were being barred from, he called de Nobriga out.
De Nobriga, who clearly doesn’t understand what a lighthearted comment is, pretty much confirmed Haynes’ suspicions and gave some nonsense response about giving the state owned media a “fighting chance.”
Judging by the official statement Minister de Nobriga released the day after the doo-doo hit the fan, I am not sure he fully grasps the severity of his “lighthearted” statement or the damage it has done to not only his Government, but to our democracy as a whole.
The corner stone of every democratic nation is freedom of speech and by extension the freedom of the press.
De Nobriga essentially destroyed credibility of all state run media houses. Rather than free press, they are now shrouded by public opinion as being part of a Government propaganda machine.
Unfortunately, this also spills over to other media houses.
Trinbagonians have long distrusted the media and are very vocal about it, especially when it comes to political matters.
I remember in my youthful days as a blindly optimistic journalist, a random stranger on the street approached me and asked, “Eh! How all yuh does sleep knowing all you do is spread a pack of lies.”
This was over a decade ago, today it is way worse.
Journalists are constantly accused of bias. Media houses are regularly branded as a “PNM” or “UNC” depending on their content.
Distrust in the media has been a sneaky tactic that our politicians have used for years. They attack the media for the smallest of things, planting seeds of distrust into the soft minds of their most devout followers. So when a special report or investigation uncovering misconduct or corruption is published, their followers refuse to see it as fact, because they believe the media lies.
Every Government is the media’s best friend until something they don’t want coming out, comes out or something is said that they do not like, and then it is all out warfare.
T&T is not the only one familiar to this savvy little “don’t trust the media” game. Former US President Donald Trump regularly assaulted the media’s credibility in efforts to cover any of his shortcomings and it worked for him for a long time.
We have seen this play out for years and for some reason the general population continues to get sucked into it.
De Nobriga’s statement has added fuel to an unfortunate fire.
All those who long suspected the media of being compromised will cling to his statement as proof.
Sadly, he has robbed TTT and all those working there of their journalistic credibility.
He has cast a long shadow of doubt on anything his Government says via the media, which is incredibly dangerous during a pandemic.
Giving state-owned media houses access to Government events that independent media houses are barred from is terrifying. It is something that should not be tolerated.
I think the Ministry of Communications needs to take a long hard look at themselves. Whoever is making those dictator-esque decisions needs to be fired and the Government has years of damage control to do, because once trust is broken it is not easily repaired.