Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Facing 2017

January 1 - Today, we reflect on a year that presented to the media some of the sternest challenges of the modern era. It was a period during which, internationally, the forces against press freedom gained oppressive and, occasionally murderous ground.

At the regional level, though we escaped the worst effects of growing violence and grievous attack, a combination of internal and exogenous factors led to serious challenges to the flourishing of independent, professional journalism and media practice generally.

In response, we have seemingly failed to convince all stakeholders that the best route to development through information and enlightened action is the viability of an industry founded on a commitment to fair, balanced and professional journalistic performance.

This, to me, represents the most critical challenge to the formal media industry, and associated structures for professional practice based on longstanding principles and instruction. The ensuing conundrum offers up a variety of emerging options that have contributed, more than anything else, to the discussion on post-truth output and the dominance of opinion and propaganda over fact.

It remains our belief that journalism presents to our societies the best available opportunity to capture the truth of our Caribbean existence and that by strengthening the media’s institutional structures and enhancing its stock of professional resources, the region will be better equipped to engage the critical development questions.

This in no way devalues the impact of other, informal sources of information flows, but represents the consolidation of an indispensable pillar of civil society. There is no reason why these two streams cannot reside alongside each other and to intersect, whatever their essential differences in purpose, structure and eventual aspiration.

Media owners and managers need at this time to create better conditions for the continued growth of professionalism. Representative media and media worker organisations also need to pursue more enlightened paths to development. There is, as well, the imperative of personal, professional development.

Issues related to the advent of cyber-crime legislation and other related laws will continue to engage our close attention and a network of hemispheric and international support has already been activated to provide critical legal and other assistance. There also continue to be concerns related to recent broadcasting legislation.

In 2016, the ACM attempted to play its part through efforts involving our national affiliates and collaborators and our international partners. This occurred at the level of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), a seat on whose Steering Committee we currently occupy, and through the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) on whose Councils we sit both at the international and wider regional levels. We were also elected to serve on the inaugural executive board of the recently established African, Caribbean and Pacific Press Clubs Federation (ACP-PCF).

We have also collaborated with the United Nations system, through the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and UNICEF and with UNESCO to execute two important projects to first develop and launch a guide to coverage of Children and their issues in the Caribbean and also to continue our work on building a regional framework for Media Self-Regulation.

Among our ongoing concerns are the shortcomings of national representative organisations in the 10 countries represented by the ACM, in addition to our national Focal Points. For 2017, our priority list must pay greater attention to the building of a more supportive institutional infrastructure, both as a regional organisation and as individual national associations, to achieve greater viability on the ground.

(Excerpt from my statement as President of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers)