In keeping with yesterday being observed globally as World Press Freedom Day 2022 under the theme ‘Journalism Under Digital Siege’ I had intended to write about how the Ukraine War is a perfect example of how digital communication has put journalism under siege.
Instead, I decided to break with tradition and respond to two responses to two articles I wrote in this column that so worried the writers to have had them put pen to paper and fingers to keyboards.
By pure coincidence, the first email I opened yesterday morning (World Press Freedom Day) was the following:
‘Dear Earl, I read your article in the Voice. The second sentence in the third paragraph presents an inaccuracy which would in fact strengthen your argument if it were corrected. You write: “Slavery was never interrupted in Saint Lucia.”
‘In 1795, following the Battle of Rabot which the Saint Lucians won, slavery ceased to exist in Saint Lucia. In 1796 slavery was reimposed by the British after the battle on the Morne which is commemorated by the Inniskilling Monument.
‘Victory at the Battle of Rabot precedes even the decisive victory in Haiti which won Haitian Independence in 1803, so although it only lasted for a year it is very important for Saint Lucian identity that it should not be forgotten.
‘Saint Lucians “interrupted” slavery in Saint Lucia. The British re-enslaved. Is there a way of making that point?
Otherwise, thanks for the article.’
The letter was signed, with ‘Best wishes’ by ‘De (Gregor’s wife)’
‘De’ is actually Deidre Williams, wife of historian and ex-school principal Gregor Williams.
‘Gregor’s wife’ is no accidental sobriquet, because Deidre and her husband have always been together active in almost every local organisation having anything to do with Saint Lucia’s history and heritage, sitting side-by-side at all meetings.
Deidre has spent more than an average lifetime here in an adopted homeland where she’s never been fully adopted by those of us who’ve traditionally seen and regarded her only as ‘Gregor’s wife’ or ‘the White lady’, unintentionally dismissing the accepted fact that they’re an inseparable pair, a couple equal in their own intellectual strengths, a virtual and veritable pair showing living proof that unlike what’s taught in Physics, like poles don’t always repel — and she’s never been just a wife ‘standing behind her husband’ all the way…
Today’s generations will simply not know that, like Mr Williams, Mrs Williams is also a repository of more knowledge of Saint Lucia’s history than most Saint Lucians – period!
I’m therefore glad she’s drawn to my attention that my messaging fell short…
What I really meant to say was that never mind their wars over Saint Lucia, Britain and France never interrupted the TransAtlantic slave trade and while flags changed here, slaves remained enslaved.
The point ‘De’ made that Saint Lucian freedom fighters having “interrupted” slavery before the Haitian Revolution, even if only for one year, is an important one that I refer to at every opportunity in my many speaking engagements as Chair of the National Reparations Committee (NRC) and in this column – and a subject that’ll hopefully be taught at schools sooner than later.
As I wrote this article as my first of many on World Press Freedom Day yesterday, I was indeed glad that ‘De’ had also given me reason to read a ‘Letter to the Editor’ in The VOICE of 23 April 2022, which two persons (including one of my sons) called me about during the ten days before I read it.
At the time being consumed with NRC activities and meeting my usual daily deadlines that give the wrong impression that I’m actually employed, I chose not to read the published letter in any hurry — not because I didn’t care, but because I don’t normally reply to criticisms of what I write.
Why? Because just like me, everyone else has a right to an opinion – and I just love preserving my sanity!
I always abide by the ‘Give and Take’ maxim that if you criticize you should also expect criticism and therefore not be moved to criticize someone just for criticizing you.
That being said, I will not reply to or comment on the referred ‘Letter to the Editor’ signed by one ‘Disappointed’, except to say that I never said what the already-very-disappointed ghost writer wanted to make it appear I meant by what I wrote.
All that said, I return to my disappointment with the way in which the world is being besieged by one-sided coverage of the war in Ukraine in which all the principles of press freedom have been thrown through the window when it comes to coverage of both sides: the global television network RT (Russia Today) was banned across the European Union (EU), the Ukraine President closed-down TV channels considered not supportive — and between the BBC and CNN, anything reported about Russia is simply always (and expectedly) negative, coated in doubt and padded with elements of disbelief.
History and context have been thrown out the window and there’s no longer ‘both sides’ to a war story, with everything said and shown to justify 40 nations agreeing to pump arms into Ukraine and the US sending $33 Billion in heavy-duty armaments to support a proxy war involving paid mercenaries being described as ‘international freedom fighters’ and ‘voluntary international brigades’ from as many as 20 countries.
Everywhere else this would be deemed by BBC and CNN as external interference by countries that don’t want to lose one life for Ukraine, but will arm Ukraine to the teeth to keep the deadly war going at the sure cost of more civilian Ukrainian lives.
And the world continues being served only digital bombardments of only bad news, by-the-minute, about Russia and ‘Putin’, while more Ukrainians die by the day.
Yes, journalism is under heavy digital siege in Ukraine.
And I won’t cry when criticized…