I’ve always held that any practicing journalist anywhere should always help people better understand that with the world now more of a Global Village, everything happening everywhere (else) always has a local connection.
Take the Novak Djokovic Saga: how Sports and Diplomacy, Politics and Law combined with Medicine and Journalism, Health and Wellness (and virtually everything else) to turn tennis courts, law courts and courts of public opinion into one international melee-melange.
The continuing discussion everywhere today is about Djokovic’s insistence on defending his Australia Open Grand Slam title at center-court in Melbourne in the eyes of the world — and without taking a COVID test, or a jab, like every other player.
As fellow legendary star Boris Becker noted, all Djokovic had to do to prevent the unnecessary hullabaloo was simply take a jab.
But he opted to play by his own rules and use Australian law to challenge the Australian government’s authority to decide who can enter the country’s borders – and how – under the national COVID-19 emergency.
Some 90% of Australians are vaccinated vis-à-vis 49% in Serbia, but a Serbian national who happens to be one of the richest sportsmen in the world, who tested COVID-positive in Belgrade on December 16, 2021, sought and got an invitation and assurances from an unauthorized State body with the belief he could enter without meeting Federal requirements on arrival.
At least one other player in a similar situation opted to return home without a fuss, but Djokovic insists he has a divine right to enter Australia without subjecting his exceptional self to the same entry rules as lesser mortals.
Like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Djokovic’s also won 20 Grand Slam titles, but he is decidedly against vaccination – and publicly advocates against it.
He continued performing public activities without wearing a mask for several days after testing positive at home last month, after which the unrepentant anti-vaxxer also decided to take his fight off the tennis court and directly to the Australian government — on its own home court.
Djokovic insists that despite Federal law barring entry by unvaccinated travelers, he must be legally allowed to enter and play among vaccinated players from around the world.
A judge ruled he did all he could to meet the requirements laid down by those who invited him and therefore ought not to have had his visa canceled on arrival.
But under Australian law — like everywhere else within the British Commonwealth with a functioning Justice system — any Home Affairs minister (responsible for Immigration) can always cancel anyone’s visa at the point-of-entry in the name or interest of ‘National Security’ – and especially under a national Health Emergency.
It is also (supposed to be) elementary knowledge that Federal Law overrides State Law everywhere; and under an Emergency it’s difficult for any final appellate court to overrule or override application of laws passed in parliament by an elected Federal government.
Afraid of being accused of taking sides, journalists and commentators employed by the mainstream international media, largely unable to make independent calls based on judgement of facts and figures, generally tend to opt to effectively maintain the confusion by and with headlines reflecting conflicting views and approaches.
The Australian government was therefore described by BBC World News presenters earlier this week as ‘having egg on its face’.
But not everybody accepts that tatty English breakfast talk-show formula.
To many, the Australia government simply decided to err on the side of caution, allowing Djokovic to play-out his unfamiliar shots at home and abroad, but applying the letter of Australian law once he touched-down ‘Down Under’.
Besides, the type of ‘special status’ Djokovic sought-and-got is not a legal form of entry; and worse, if he is deported for violating related Australian law, he’ll not won’t defend his 21st Grand Slam title in 2021, but also not for the next three years.
So, why would one of the richest sportsmen on earth risk all that, instead of simply doing like most people who have to travel and just take a single jab?
It all boils down to (among other things) whether Djokovic’s presumed right to a special entry ticket overrides the Australian government’s absolute responsibility to protect the nation’s health.
So, what’s the local connection?
For starters, like Djokovic, one doctor here insists Saint Lucia’s Health Authorities must observe her presumed right to prescribe legally-unauthorized medicines for COVID — and is likewise using the law to challenge the law that outlaws her action(s).
Likewise too, the island’s most influential local media personality Sam ‘Jook Bwa’ Flood is insisting, like Djokovic, he also has a right to not only oppose vaccination publicly, but also to freely share, on air, unverified allegations about vaccines being part of a global conspiracy.
Sam indeed said earlier this week that ‘The person who invented vaccines has said online that they don’t work!’
He claimed he ‘didn’t quite remember the name’ of the said scientist, but said his revelation was somehow scrubbed from the ‘Net — and challenged ‘anyone’ to prove him wrong!
Listening to Sam ‘Tell It Like It Is!’ with his native tongue piercing the early-morning ear-wax of his wide-and-faithful on-air-and-online congregation at home and abroad, I couldn’t help but share the concern of those doctors who insist his anti-vax preaching contributes significantly to so many Saint Lucians remaining skeptical about or refusing to take a jab.
Government and Health Authorities are naturally concerned that with the national vaccination remaining just around 27% Sam is also insisting the government is not fully transparent about the number of persons testing positive and dying despite being vaccinated.
His open challenge to ‘anyone’ to prove him wrong therefore sounds like an open invitation to the National COVID-19 Management Center (NCMC) to clear the air.
And it should — not only for Sam’s fans En-Hall-la, but also for those undoubtedly influenced by his daily sermons.