S.Atlantic : Press Freedom Issues in the South Atlantic
Submitted by SARTMA.com
6 February 2006
It is unfortunate that Governments in the region are trying to stifle the media.
PRESS FREEDOM ISSUES IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC
An Editorial by J. Brock (FINN)
It became obvious that Ascension Island’s Councillors had received an e-mail from the FCO’s Administrator expressing his
opinion that the media should not be used to inform the public about recent events concerning the Island’s right of abode
and right to own property. The recent report on the Council Meeting of 26 January 2006 in the Islander Newspaper* reads:
“Before the meeting closed, Councillor Yon informed the Administrator that his e-mail to Councillors concerning the Oath of
Office when using the media to keep the public informed was unacceptable. Council considered his remarks were insulting,
patronizing and paternalistic as Councillors are aware of their responsibilities.”
Normally it is SARTMA’s policy to let an Island’s breaking news be presented in its own newspaper first but when other
newspapers reported the story and the Islander did not I was a bit miffed – but not for long and rightly so, when the
newspaper began to publish the news that by this time had been published by everyone else. Councillors have every right to
be forthright in their rejection of the Administrator’s e-mail. The fact that the press was not informed to begin with is a
violation of that Island’s press freedom
Press freedom on Tristan da Cunha has also suffered a blow. SARTMA has retained e-mails from the FCO Administrator, who
said the new “OFFICIAL” site being created would be for promoting Tristan’s products and bringing more business for the
Island. I was assured that there would be a Government grant to design the site and host it. The Administrator asked if we
could work together on the project and I took him at his word. SARTMA had offered to set up the site free of charge but a
Government funded site was chosen. The Administrator was going to send news to both sites but it became apparent, when
neither SARTMA nor Tristan Times received news since May 2005, that there would be no co-operative effort. I supposed it
was hoped that Tristan Times would be starved of news and disappear but thanks to our SARTMA Scholar there is news on the site.
I think it is unfortunate that Governments fund competitive sites when there is already a commercial site that does the job.
Tristan Times was set up two years previous to the “OFFICIAL” site and it is obvious that the two sites cannot flourish on
the same information and a small population base. Again, this is a violation of Tristan da Cuna’s press freedom.
In third world countries the press is stifled and this should not be the norm in the overseas territories of a first world
country. We don’t run a banana republic in the South Atlantic and I feel it is time the media took on its true, responsible
role in the region. It’s also time for Governments in the region to stop trying to put established newspapers out of
business by restricting what is reported in the independent media. The people on the South Atlantic Islands deserve to have
a free and independent press.
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