29 June 2004

Alert

IPI concerned by government's deteriorating media relations


Incident details

David Marchant

publisher(s)

legal action
(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

Vienna, 29 June 2004

IPI Concerned By Grenadian Government's Deteriorating Media Relations

Since the 30 March publication of an allegation in the Miami-based Internet newsletter OffshoreAlert that Grenada's Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, allegedly accepted money in return for awarding the trade minister's post to German-born Eric E. Resteiner, the local media have faced a government campaign of intimidation for reporting the story.

Although Mitchell vigorously denies the story and has filed a criminal libel lawsuit in Grenada against OffshoreAlert's publisher, David Marchant, the Government Information Service (GIS) wrote to local media outlets warning them that "the full force of the law" would be used against anyone responsible for repeating the allegations.

In addition to the legal threats, described as "censorship" by the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), the governing New National Party (NNP) has continually harassed journalists. Throughout May journalists faced hostility from government officials leading to journalists walking out of a press conference to complain about their treatment. Freelance journalist Leroy Noel was also held for questioning about a 21 May article in the weekly Spice Isle Review criticising the NNP. He subsequently received an anonymous death threat on his mobile phone.

There are also concerns about the media's right of access to government information. In June, Grenada's Public Accounts Committee banned the media from its proceedings after expressing concerns regarding the premature publication of information. Media organisations reject this claim, arguing instead that it was "another attempt at stifling press freedom and the free flow of information in Grenada."

"Events in Grenada are extremely worrying," said IPI Director Johann P. Fritz. "The prime minister and the government appear to be making a concerted effort to suppress news and intimidate journalists into submission."

"While there may or may not be a need for the allegations against the prime minister to be tested in a civil court of law, the decision to use criminal libel amounts to nothing more than a government inspired attempt to silence the media by threatening them with punishment for practicing their profession."

"An action in criminal libel will undermine the right of Grenadian journalists to act in the public's interest when evaluating the work of the government and reinforce the perception that, in Grenada, it is better to remain silent on this subject than face potential imprisonment," Fritz added.

"Regarding acts of intimidation, the government needs to accept that this will only poison relations with the media for many years to come. The government has need of the media to project its own policies. By damaging this relationship the government is effectively harming itself."

"The government should rise above the short-term considerations of this present crisis, acknowledge the damage it is doing to its international reputation and work at restoring goodwill among the media," said Fritz.



Source

International Press Institute
Spiegelgasse 2
1010 Vienna
Austria
ipi (@) freemedia.at
Fax:+43 1 5129014
Grenada
 
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