Leading newspaper columnists and media watchdog organizations have voiced strong support for claims made by journalists in Grenada, blaming the office of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas for instigating the sacking of newspaper editor Rawle Titus.
Titus was fired as editor of The Grenada Advocate after Prime Minister Thomas’ office complained to parent company, Barbados Advocate, over a front page article appearing in the March 9th edition of the Grenadian paper.
“… the vibes I am getting from very reliable sources seem to support the position that action was indeed taken to influence the bosses in Barbados,” said Lloyd Noel, a respected columnist and former Attorney General of Grenada.
The Media Workers Association of Grenada is insisting that two emails from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Barbados Advocate management, plus telephone conversations, triggered the sacking.
“What is not very clear is whether the same was by the Prime Minister personally, or by one of his subordinates on his behalf,” said Noel in his latest article syndicated throughout the region.
“In either case, however, if such action was taken to produce the shocking result, I must say that I am very disappointed in the Prime Minister and his team, in the given circumstances surrounding this matter.’’
The report in The Grenada Advocate entitled – “Prime Minister makes fresh moves’’ – captured the widening gap within Thomas’s ruling NDC, one year ahead of a general elections.
The article indicated that Thomas had held strategy meetings without the majority of his MPs, and has a preferred slate for the upcoming general elections.
At least four Government MPs, some publicly, have confirmed the report in the newspaper as true.
“Any journalist who takes his or her professional integrity seriously can hardly be expected to write an “apology’’ or “retraction’’ of a news article that he had earlier approved as the newspaper’s editor,’’ said well known Caribbean journalist Ricky Singh in his latest column.
“But a dangerous precedent seems to have been set in the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of the paper’s editor.’’
Titus has been on a public campaign to bring attention to the issue which included a one-man “protest moment’’ in front the Prime Minister’s Office at the Ministerial Complex.
The Barbados Advocate’s management has repeatedly shied away from requests by regional journalists to be interviewed on the matter.
International media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, said that there are “strong grounds for suspecting’’ that the decision of the privately owned Grenada Advocate newspaper to dismiss Titus “was the result of direct political pressure by Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and his Press Secretary.’’
“We urge Prime Minister Thomas to disown the pressure that his office brought to bear on the Grenada Advocate’s management and to reiterate the commitment to freedom of information that he expressed when he took office in 2008,’’ Reporters without Borders said.
Meanwhile, the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) is encouraging Titus to pursue his options “based on inviolable labour principles and standards and applicable legislation”.
Titus has been employed with the Barbados-based outfit for seven years and his tenure is believed to be covered by Grenadian labour laws.
“We also believe there is strong evidence to support the veracity of the story as published in theGrenada Advocate of March 9, 2012 and are of the view that the Barbados Advocate appears to have accepted counter-arguments without taking into proper account the position outlined by its own local editor,’’ said ACM after investigating the matter, including reviewing correspondents and interviewing Government MPs.©