Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 16th 2015 Contents Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, May 16, 2015
Accurately determining a country's press
freedom status has always been a difficult
task. International human rights groups
sometimes quibble over the precise
metrics and there have been known to
be interesting anomalies, particularly with respect to
traditionally under-reported countries such as those of
The Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM)
has, since its inception, attempted to present a
consistent, albeit nuanced picture of the press freedom
environment through our biennial country reports
prepared by national associations and focal points.
These are often over-shadowed in the public space
by the better known assessments of international
organisations such as Reporters without Borders
(RWB), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and
Freedom House which publish annual press freedom
In times past, such reports were often prepared in the
absence of meaningful consultations with practitioners
on the ground and against the backdrop of a generally
moribund trans-Caribbean human rights movement.
Apart from a small number of special interest groups
that do ne work in the areas of LGBT advocacy,
gender equity, workers' rights and environmental rights,
there are few that appear to have the faintest interest
in one of the fundamental pillars of the democratic
process -- freedom of expression.
This unpardonable vacuum has created conditions
under which advocates in one category of rights --
whether civil and political or economic, social and
cultural -- do not feel inclined to draw the connection
between their individual causes and the need to foster
an environment of free expression. As a consequence,
free expression and press freedom advocates in
the Caribbean often embark upon the lonely task of
bringing to light the value of such freedoms to the polity
as a whole.
It is by no means a politically neutral engagement.
Press freedom is subject to ckle support. Opposition
politicians focus on the inalienability of the right, but
quickly remind us all of the need to be "responsible"
whenever the political tables turn.
The fact of the matter, of course, is that freedom does
carry with it a requirement to be responsible. But it is
equally difficult to be responsible if one is not free.
If you have a situation in which accountability and
transparency are not the norm, access to information
laws are defective and whistle-blowers are punished
instead of being protected, then journalists are drawn
to the "leak" and the unofficial release of information
often attached to less than honourable motives. Yet, our
societies crave the truth and there is usually an outcry
for more and more "investigative journalism."
It is a campaign riddled with no shortage of duplicity.
Many politicians, captains of industry, opinion-leaders
and others in responsible positions may not survive
properly conducted investigative journalism. In a sense,
in our small authoritarian geographic spaces, nobody
really wants this. It is sheer hypocrisy.
So this, to me, would be one of the important metrics to
measure the degree of press freedom that prevails -- a
predisposition to speaking the truth not only to rulers,
but also to the ruled.
The other variable, of course, would be the legislative
and constitutional framework under which the society
functions. It is clearly not enough for there to be a
constitutional provision for freedom of the press, if
social and cultural antecedents militate against the
freedom to offend, to blaspheme, to defy sacred edict,
to stand up against the powerful and, sometimes, to
get it wrong without the guillotine of silence being
For this reason, the rst signs of a country serious
about free expression and freedom of the press would
include a commitment to decriminalise breaches of
laws related to expression, protect those who blow the
whistle on official wrong-doing and the opening of the
doors and windows to officially-held information through
real access to information laws.
In this regard, nothing heard across the political divide
in most of our countries in the Caribbean is particularly
All of this does not mean there is no freedom of the
press in the region, but that in de ning the processes
we need to take us there, the legislative and cultural
defaults have to increasingly focus on freedom and
not, as is currently the case, on restriction and ultimate
Wesley Gibbings is a journalist, media trainer and
press freedom advocate who has championed the
cause locally, regionally and internationally. He is
General Secretary of the Association of Caribbean
Media Workers, Deputy-Convenor of the International
Freedom of Expression Exchange and a member of
the Steering Committee of the Global Forum for Media
Developing the media landscape
in Trinidad and Tobago
By Wesley Gibbings
A Look at
The TTPBA (Trinidad and Tobago Publishers
and Broadcasters Association) was
established in the early 1990s with the
granting of Presidential licences to potential radio
broadcasters to own and operate radio stations.
As the Trinidad radio market grew and more
radio stations came on the scene, owners and
operators saw the need to come together with a
view to sharing concerns, resolving issues and
developing the media industry in a way that would
be bene cial to all parties.
Objectives were formulated then, and with the
incorporation of the TTPBA in October 2003 these
were formalised in its constitution. The TTPBA
is a non-pro t organization that is funded by its
members and is an "Owners/Managers group"
media industry currently comprises approximately
38 radio stations, and 11 local television stations.
Press has remained at three daily newspapers
with several weeklies, and the public is treated to
numerous foreign cable channels. Membership
has also been extended to new media who meet
the criteria as publishers and broadcasters.
The TTPBA recognises the need to share
information and ideas with its Caribbean Media
counterparts and so in 2005 became and
Associate Member of the Caribbean Broadcasting
Union (CBU). The TTPBA has close ties with IPI,
the International Press Institute, which held its
World Congress here in 2012 with the TTPBA
and ACM acting as the LOC. The broadcast
industry is regulated by a statutory body, the
Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE TTPBA
The Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and
Has a responsibility to protect and preserve the
right of the people to know
Holds within its portfolio the responsibility
and undertaking to encourage practices that
will strengthen and maintain the broadcast
and publishing industry by improving
industry standards through education and
acknowledgement of organizations and individuals
who have contributed signi cantly to the industry
Is instrumental in the creation of a legal
framework and regulations by representing
its members through discussion, suggestions
and objections with governmental and other
agencies who impact on our media sphere (eg
Telecommunications Authority, COTT, MCC, etc.)
Exists to encourage an exchange of information
among members that will assist the Association
in making decisions that affect the broadcast and
The TTPBA elects a new Board of Directors every
two years. The Board comprises the President,
Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer and a
maximum of ve other Directors.
Membership of the TTPBA is available to
companies and individuals involved in publishing
and/or broadcasting. Admission to membership
of the TTPBA is decided by a vote of the
The Board meets once a month and the general
membership also meets on a monthly basis. There
is not a set date for these meetings but generally
the monthly meetings are held during the fourth
week of the month.
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