Monday, 21 November 2016





Always a pleasure to be in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Your kind invitation gives me good reason to be here.

There was that time in life when we needed no excuse – invitation or no invitation. We came and did not always leave when expected.

Learn to say no – advice from a former Prime Ministerial colleague.
Those who believe you should be quick to say yes – and give thanks at every invitation to show you are still alive and have not been forgotten.
For an active politician, this could be like Daniel entering the Lion’s Den.
The prophet kept them at bay –
You will have to make a speech.

Delivering a speech at a banquet on the night of his arrival in a large city, a visiting minister told several anecdotes he intended to repeat at meetings the next day. Because he wanted to use the jokes again, he requested the reporters to omit them from any accounts they might turn in to their newspapers. A cub reporter, in commenting on the speech, ended his piece with the following: “The minister told a number of stories that cannot be published.”

Food was the earliest subject of communication between Homo Sapiens:

(i) Cave Paintings, which gave advice on plants, and animals that were safe for eating.

Other forms emerged soon after.
(ii) Then came Drumming: In African tradition, drumming has played an important role in every aspect of life. Today, African hand drums are still played to communicate, celebrate, mourn and inspire. They’re played in times of peace and war, planting and harvesting, birth and death.
(iii) Smoke signals were used by many cultures, including Native American to communicate over long distances.

(iv) In Medieval England, town cries were the chief means of news communication with the townspeople, where many of the folk were illiterate in a period before the moveable type was invented. Royal proclamations, local bylaws, market days; even selling loaves of bread were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier.

Centuries ago, Sophocles wrote: “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news”.

Shakespeare expressed this same sentiment in Anthony and Cleopatra. Cleopatra when told by a messenger that Anthony had married another, threatens to treat the messenger’s eyes as balls, eliciting the response “Gracious madam, I that bring the news made not the match.”

I am sure that many of you members of the media here have experienced equally aggressive responses when you are forced to report bad news or unfavourable stories.

But it is your job to give the news, good or bad and the right to receive as well as disseminate accurate and timely information. Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of your craft.

Those who write the headlines must master that peculiar skill which attract just attention – but they can often be misleading, confusing or pedantic.
1. Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
2. Miners refuse to Work after Death
3. War Dims Hope for Peace
4. Red Tape holds Up New Bridges
5. Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
6. Kids Make Nutritious Snacks.

Before proceeding further, let me warmly congratulate the government and people of the Bahamas on your first-rate telecommunications infrastructure that makes up-to-date information accessible to your population across the archipelago.

The Bahamas has a proud record of press freedom and deserves our highest commendation in that regard.

Public discourse, vigorous and open discussion are essential to the preservation of your thriving democracy.

It is well established that the Press, the Fourth Estate, plays a unique role in the promotion of human rights, our fundamental freedoms and is essential to engender good governance, public accountability and transparency.

To perform this Task, it is entitled to ready access – not as a favour, but as a right. Without this, it is prone to leaks (often unreliable and self-centred) or speculation, which could prove harmful to the national interest. 

It is for this reason that my Administration enacted a new Freedom of Information Act, which spawned a new culture of openness. That represented a quantum leap from the notion of secrecy under which the Official Secrets Act engendered.

The great number and range of Bahamian media outlets that provide citizens with news, information and entertainment is truly impressive: The Nassau Guardian newspaper has been in existence since 1844, the Tribune, Freeport News, the Bahama Journal, the tabloid Punch, all contribute to your vibrant print media sector.
Many of your media entities have digital components where audiences access media content from anywhere in the world. In one form or another, Bahamian media, including digital media, reach all Bahamian households and engage with audiences across the globe with stories and messages that inform, educate and entertain.
This is an impressive achievement on which you must build in a global society that is increasingly knowledge-based.

But that’s not all. Some of the stories, written and produced by the persons whom you honour tonight have played a role in the final outputs which have helped to shape public discourse and managed to influence public policy and sound governance.
These accomplishments are necessary and important media requisites in an enduring democracy.

A significant number of citizens, especially our youth, are active social media participants who create, share and consume a wide array of information among themselves and across the entire world via the Internet.

Over 50% of the world’s population is less than 30 years old.
Almost all millennials have joined social networks. Online news sources, social networking websites, You Tube videos and blogs have joined television and other traditional media as the main sources of public information and are connecting citizens who share similar views. These citizens are influencing each other directly, bypassing traditional media and other intermediaries. More than half of mobile non-voice traffic in the Caribbean is for Facebook. Twitter now impacts all aspects of life including cultures and national elections.

Advancements in technology are expanding the reach and influence of traditional media among all audiences and increasing the power of social media. These have facilitated a move away from a world in which few institutions and individuals create media content to one in which everyone can produce content that influences and creates a stake in our culture and future.

But all social media or all media content are not equal. All attractively packaged and effectively distributed, shared information are not of equal value or equal worth.

Some are problematic and dangerous. As a result, some technological changes employed by social media, have major implications for the historical roles and responsibilities of traditional media.

The editor of a small weekly newspaper, in a rage over several government bills that had recently been passed, ran a scathing editorial under the headline: “HALF OF OUR LEGISLATORS ARE CROOKS.” Many prominent politicians were outraged, and tremendous pressure was exerted on him to retract the statement. He finally succumbed to the pressure and ran an apology with the headline: “HALF OF OUR LEGISLATORS ARE NOT CROOKS.”

A decade ago political candidates largely depended on traditional media to tell their stories, to sell their candidacies. This is no longer the case. Political candidates are exploiting New Media, which have rallied some of the largest populist movements the world has ever seen, including the so-called Arab Spring. In the world’s largest and most robust market of America, we witness a fundamental shift in content creation and media consumption.

Eight years ago Barack Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ campaign used social media platforms to rapidly stimulate political activity and community activism. More recently, Donald Trump used social media to rally a populist movement that challenged established terms of political engagement and stoked controversy.

Technological Advancements Implications
New communications technologies empower individuals and groups to do democratic things. They provide platforms for the rapid distribution of material that can undermine democracy and yield problematic outcomes. They rapidly and frequently disseminate falsehoods, slander, intolerant views and hostile ideologies. Communities, nations and the world have become more connected yet more complicated, more social yet more individualistic.

While technology creates the vehicle through which people assemble ideas, the need remains for the audience to be engaged, to be influenced, to be persuaded, and convinced.

In this age when everyone with a computer can create and publish news stories, parade as journalists, you as professionals have to clearly demonstrate that you offer something of lasting value; something that differentiates your outputs from the false pretenders.

Rights and Responsibilities
(i) to identify what makes sense amidst an avalanche of information that absolutely makes no sense, making a distinction between what is important and what is trivial and superficial.
(ii) You have a compelling duty to ferret out and tell the truth and prove that to skeptical audiences.
(iii) To inform public debate so that citizens can make educated choices to help empower citizens to act in ways that serve the greatest good.
(iv) Journalists must observe the profession’s ethical mandates: respect privacy, embrace public accountability; give voice to the voiceless and protect the vulnerable.

Why should professional journalists take these ethical mandates seriously when others are not constrained by such old-fashioned notions?

In the highly competitive media industry, speed to publish and speed to hit the send button are often perceived as the only goals, so why concern oneself with other objectives that appear archaic?

Why bother to be accurate when sensationalism sells? When trivia trumps analysis and investigative stories prove more costly?

Being right and being credible to warrant trust are more important attributes than being first.

Amid the noise of information overload, the triple goals of credibility, accuracy, trustworthiness, still constitute the mandate for a free press in a democracy.

Professional journalistic courage and telling the truth as you celebrate this evening are values that have withstood the test of time.

The amount of time that young people now spend online consuming media and other content has increased substantially. Yet our young people need help in developing the requisite media literacy skills to analyze and understand the vast array of media messages and formats they consume from disparate sources.
Traditional media practitioners need to more effectively help develop the critical thinking and analytical skills that youth and other citizens need to successfully navigate media-soaked and social media-immersed environments.
Responsible media can help consumers discern fact from fiction; truth from falsehoods; valid arguments from those that are fundamentally flawed. Responsible media must help citizens develop the ability to bring critical thinking skills to bear on all media – from social media content to musical lyrics and videos.

In doing so traditional media would have helped our citizens to ask the right questions: From whose perspective is this story told? Whose voices are heard, and whose are excluded? What strategies does this message use to get attention and to influence? Whose interests are served by this story? And to persistently ask, why, why, why?

The original progenitors of the Bahamian Media and even some of the most senior among you would be bewildered by the face of the new media landscape.
But even in the light of the cataclysmic changes you can never relinquish the duties of the Fourth Estate to inform and educate.
While others pander to narrow interests and cater to personal tastes, yours must be that broader vision which reflects the panoramic view.

It must promote the national ethos and yet global in perspective.
The main issues may not be sexy – but they are of critical importance to the future of mankind.
- human conflicts and the spread of terrorism
- the reality and immense global warming – climate change which poses particular threat to The Bahamas.

- Our region is confronted with severe challenges
The imbalances, which are created in the name of globalization and consequences to countries, like The Bahamas with the imposition of rules and systems which would deny fair competition in niche areas of international financial transactions.
- How to fuel the spread of the creative industries within our regional space to encourage and expand our gifts of nature, the talents of our people in order to build the unique civilization.

In seeking to spread the gospel, do not sacrifice your integrity or compromise your standards.
Tonight, I urge you to insist on the training for those who seek to enter your noble profession so that the ethics are observed to permit the heightening of the consciousness and the expansion of the horizons for those who are called into your service.

This has truly been a delightful evening. The Bahamas Press Club deserves full praise for arranging an occasion where partners (not friends and foes) share the ambience we have so well enjoyed tonight.
All of us welcome and appreciate recognition – but none is more precious than that which is extended by our peers.

So tonight’s deserving Awardees will always treasure the special accolades they receive tonight. It should propel them, as responsible Journalists, to even higher levels of excellence while together we continue the onward march on the journey to peace, freedom, justice and prosperity for the people we serve.

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