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No surrender in defence of press freedom


Over the last two months, Searchlight has engaged the Government in making the case that the Cybercrime Bill be amended to protect journalists. We believe that, by and large, the Government has responded to our concerns and those of others by making meaningful changes to the Bill, which was passed into law last Friday.

Recent developments both here and elsewhere, however, have reminded that governments are not the only forces which at times threaten the freedom of the press. {{more}}Right now in the United States, the Donald Trump campaign for the American presidency has banned reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times from attending his campaign events, because the campaign does not like the stories which the papers have published about the campaign.

This effort to neuter these newspapers will fail. They are, after all, among the greatest newspapers in the world and they will not cow to Donald Trump’s bullying.

Searchlight fully understands the threat these newspapers face and applaud their stance, as only a few months ago, forces alligned to the Opposition had been leading a call for the public to boycott the newspaper.

Threats to press freedom also come from those who hold economic power – the private sector. Just last week, Searchlight reported the truth — that the manager of one branch of a supermarket chain had been arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to supply. The accused pleaded guilty and was fined by the court. This type of story is commonplace in our newspaper, as every week, in every edition of our newspaper, we carry stories of citizens facing these or similar charges.

The difference with the story we carried last week is that following its publication on our Facebook page, that branch of the supermarket responded by saying they will no longer sell our newspapers.

We absolutely respect the right of this business place to determine what is sold on their premises, but If this is the price of telling the truth in St Vincent and the Grenadines, it is a price we are willing to pay. We will not surrender the integrity of the paper because we fear this type of retaliation. Instead, we take the opportunity to trumpet our commitment to the principle that the freedom of the press must be inviolate. We also absolutely refuse to have different standards of reporting depending on the social status of the subject.

When Government, Opposition forces or private entities seek to muzzle the press, there is only one response: publish the stories without fear.

We will pursue the truth and we will publish the truth without regard to threats or fear of punitive action. So, let us be very clear: in defence of the freedom of the press there will be no surrender.