Letters & Opinion

Freedom to Press if the Secretary is Right

By Little Black Girl

“ONE of the unsung freedoms that go with a free press, is the freedom not to read it”, a quote by one Ferdinand Mount. That right there refers to the privilege of any right-minded society to listen to an eclectic set of information coming from the mics and voices of our media, our politicians, and their press representation. For the purposes of this article, we will refer to the press representation, as the Press Secretary.

On September 25th, 2023, I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I received the news of the event that would be the highlight of my day. It was the appointment of a new press secretary to the Prime Minister. To save you the entire cycle babble, I will only share with you my physical reaction. I flew off my chair, raised my hands to the ceiling, since the sky was outside the room, and thanked all the gods that are responsible for our religious debacle. Okay, okay, before you think that I’m taking a swipe at the press ancestor, my joy, hope, and excitement was directed at the long-anticipated need for a new press secretary to the Prime Minister. My focus, as we all must learn, is now on the present since it is truly a gift, no pun intended.

Let me pen-fully express my congratulations to the newly appointed Press Secretary who is expected to (according to my research chosen from the St. Vincent Times), bring a fresh perspective and a wealth of experience to the role. Ms. Paul, in her introduction to the media, included a few critical words that caught my inner ear; that of building, understanding, trust and forging connections to ensure that the voices of the people are heard. Additionally, I quickly discovered that she is a Linguist, former journalist and educator, so I breathed a sigh of relief like the wedding singer in “Coming to America”.

This new appointment, I anticipate, will help bridge a much more effective communication gap between the media, the Government of Saint Lucia, and its people. Notwithstanding the list of duties that I uncovered during my research; I want to believe that all the essential duties outlined will be achieved in the shortest possible time. One of the biggest objectives which stood out to me was that of interactive social media engagement and data visualization to make complex issues more comprehensible to the public. But alas, I will be needing one major deliverable from the press secretary and as a taxpayer, I reserve the right to request it.

Madam Press Secretary, I need adequate Press Protection for the Prime Minister. What does this request entail, you may ask? Well, the press secretary’s ears must both be on the ground amongst her media colleagues as well as in the streets where vibes from the people are expressed daily. Afterall, she has two ears, she could send one in the streets and the other one, you guessed it, leave it amongst her media colleagues. It’s a tough but exciting job, and it must be done by someone who is willing and ready for the challenge and Ms. Paul seems to be the one.

Let’s get back to press protection for the PM. A press secretary is supposed to sit with her PM, discuss all press briefings, grill him like an opponent journalist, discuss all his possible responses and challenge his perspectives to achieve the best and most prudent answers to the listener. The Prime Minister needs this protection so that he is ready for the inclusive and much needed media vultures out there. That type of protection was obviously absent in the past and that left Prime Minister Pierre exposed and tactfully vulnerable at times. His saving grace, fortunately, was the somewhat crippled media (by way of the poisoned political climate) and their inability to adequately explore questions, make helpful remarks and stick pins in places where further explanation is warranted. That’s the kind of press protection I mean and that’s the way I hope the new ship will be captained. I look forward to a new way of pressing and a true opportunity to engage the media and by extension the people of St. Lucia. Another area that I believe that the new press secretary can be of effective service, is to inform the public, in a timely manner, on regional and international appearances being made by the prime minister on behalf of the people of St. Lucia.

This is so that more of the citizens can view him, listen to him, and support him. This increased type of support from the citizenry will attempt or give a higher sense of patriotism, world information and awareness. I was pleasantly impressed with the PM’s presentation at the recently held UN General Assembly, 2023. I was able to pay very close attention to the speech and how it reflected my interests, my perspectives from a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) and how long and hard the climate change battle is for all of us in this Caribbean region. I also wanted to see what suit he was wearing because I’m fashionably nosy, but that’s beside the point; I just need more visibility and wider reach for all big occurrences like these.

In the end, it is anticipated that Ms. Paul will, (as was expressed) uphold principles of transparency, accountability, and accessibility and work collaboratively with the media to engage citizens and address their concerns effectively. I am rooting for the new press secretary and will be looking closely to identify all the actions of pressing.

Three cheers to the new press appointment, hip hip hooray!, hip hip hooray!, hip hip hooray!!

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