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Thank you, Mr. Campbell

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09.JAN.09

Out of evil cometh good.

The recent detention of journalist Jeff Trotman by the police because he was taking photographs of a fire and did not stop when told by a police officer is, hopefully, a blessing in disguise.

Trotman’s experience prompted noted Queen’s Counsel Parnell R. Campbell to speak on the topic “Photographers and the Police” last Monday night. Thank you very much, Mr. Campbell.{{more}}

Time and time again our reporters and photographers have been ordered by police officers, sometimes with the use of physical force, not to take photographs or to delete photographs from their cameras.

We were so concerned about this that we engaged the services of a local Lawyer with decades of experience in Journalism Law to explain the Law relating to picture taking to us. Armed with our understanding of the Law, we were, therefore, perplexed as to why, in so many cases, police officers took exception to our picture taking. We even wrote to the Commissioner of Police last year, and called on him in our editorial of June 1, 2007, to meet with us to discuss the matter.

It is our sincere hope that now that Mr. Campbell has unambiguously set us all straight on the Law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines relating to picture taking in public places that our reporters will be allowed to carry out their duties within the Law without being infringed by the police or anyone else.

Thank you, Mr. Campbell.

Peace in the Middle East

Over the just concluded Christmas season, Christians the world over, while relaying the message of peace in the world, also tend to focus on the physical location of the Middle East. Based on our historical and spiritual views, the Holy Land of Palestine, the land of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, is central to this process. Unfortunately, the people of those blessed lands have not been so blessed themselves with peace these sixty-odds years, since the establishment of the state of Israel. As a result, both Palestinians and Israeli alike, Jew and Muslim, have been forced to live in an environment of tension, hostility and even open warfare.

Ironically, one of the worst outbreaks of such hostilities has occurred smack in the midst of the Christmas Season, with the Israeli invasion of Gaza in response to what it claims are rocket attacks on its towns in Southern Israel. This followed the dumping of the ceasefire agreed to by both Israel and the Hamas organization, the elected representative of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Modern communication technology has brought the horrors of the war in Gaza right into our homes so that most people are aware of the scale of the tragedy occurring in the land of birth of the Prince of Peace.

It has triggered frantic efforts in the international community for an immediate cessation of armed conflict to bring relief to the embattled Palestinian people and those Israelis living in constant fear of rocket attacks as well as for a more long-lasting pact for peace in the region.

It is all too easy to attempt to look at the conflict from the traditional Judaeo-Christian view of backing “God’s chosen people” and to ignore the wider humanitarian considerations. Our outlook as a Christian community, rooted in the teachings of the Bible, makes it all too certain of our support for one side against the other. Yet, whatever our views on Hamas, the Government of Israel or actions of both, we cannot ignore the human realities. The persons most affected are innocent civilians, women and children in particular. It is our Christian duty to be concerned about their welfare and to support all efforts aimed at ensuring that they, too, enjoy the very rights that we hold so sacred – the right to a life of peace and the enjoyment of life and happiness.

There are also wider implications of the Middle East conflict. Further destruction, massacre and mayhem can only help to breed greater resentment, desire for revenge, extremism and terror. We have seen that these spread far beyond the Middle East and often end up hurting small countries like ours in terms of security measures and unnecessary expenditure on such matters. It also diverts the attention of the international community away from working together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals towards crisis situations.

The call for peace and justice in the Middle East is, therefore, one which ought to be supported by all Christians, Muslims, Jews etc. We cannot stay with clear consciences and continue to witness the carnage in the Holy Land without supporting efforts for an immediate ceasefire, a negotiated settlement and the creation of a settled climate for peaceful co-existence of the Palestinian and Jewish peoples in their respective lawful states.

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