Former Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris Accuses Nation Newspaper Maguffies of Exerting ‘Pressure’
The following was posted to his Facebook wall today by former editor-in-chief of the Nation newspaper Roy Morris.
When I left the Nation in January I promised myself I would not get involved in any of the “politics” of the Nation — unless I believed the actions of the organisation or any of its agents compelled me to defend myself personally or professionally. Alas, I now feel so compelled.
Over the weekend I was accosted, in a “friendly” way, by an operative of the DLP who wanted to know how come I was hostile to the Prime Minister and my successors now have to work to clean up relations. This was in apparent reference to some correspondence sent to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart by the hierarchy of the Nation newspaper, seeking to pay a courtesy call on him to “understand how we could foster a smooth relationship”. This would have to be the height of political dishonesty.
So let me put some facts on the table. I returned to the Nation in September 2013, fully recognising that the bad relations between the Prime Minister’s office (and/or the PM himself) predated me. The number of defamation suits pending and the instructions I received to bring about an immediate improvement spoke to this. I may not have a lot of things, but I do believe that I am respected for my work as a journalist and media manager, and holding on to this means everything to me.
Against this background, and while trying to bring about improvement from my end, I sought through Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler to initiate a discussion with the PM. I wanted to invite him to address our monthly Editorial Forum in the newsroom as a start. After some time Sinckler suggested I solicit the assistance of the PM’s information officer at BGIS, Sharon Austin Gill Moore, who I had some hand in training as a journalist many years ago and with whom I have always maintained a genuine and close friendship.
Sharon arranged an audience with PM Stuart during a function at Ilaro Court and when I put the question to him he immediately agreed, but noted that a series of engagements meant it would be some time before he could fulfill the promise, but he definitely would.
As had been the case with all other Editorial Fora that I had arranged, I immediately informed my superiors and then announced at our next departmental meeting that the PM had agreed to be our guest. Much to my surprise, a few weeks later I was informed that those who mattered in the company, with two specific maguffies named, were not happy with the PM being invited to speak to staff. The apparent rationale was that he did not hold press conferences, did not speak to the country about the issues, was doing a bad job of running the country and that the public would believe we were being used by him. Now, Chris Sinckler addressed the forum and there was no problem, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite addressed it and there was no problem, Alvin Jemmott and Billy Griffith addressed it on tourism and there was no problem … and the list goes on. But for some reason I was supposed to withdraw the invitation to the Prime Minister.
I might be known as a lot of things, but weak is not one of them and so I refused to withdraw the invitation. The matter again came up at a subsequent meeting and I held my position. Once again, the names of those who have the power were invoked, but apparently I was too stubborn to fold. But it got worse, rather than providing a forum for the Prime Minister I was given a list of subjects that I was required to engage my reporters writing on. For the first time I was aware of having spent more than 25 years previously at the organisation, Editorial policy and content were to be determined outside of the newsroom.
These topics included:
A look at state corporations that are behind with their annual reports and what the law requires of them.
Look at the Auditor General’s reports for the last 5 or so years to see what are the recurring offences/complaints.
An in-depth look at the financial state of the NIS and its various funds, with the implication of its heavy support of Government being juxtaposed.
Look at the demographic make up of the country and the implications for tax collection and the support of social programmes in the future. This is premised on our so-called aging population, the decline of birth and the expectations of taxpayers given the number and level of services traditionally provided by the state.
An objective analysis of Barbados current debt situation, local and foreign. What do the various commentators/experts say about this and the way Government is managing it. What are the implications for Barbados’ credit rating given the number of downgrades we have suffered in last decade.
THESE MAY ALL BE LEGITIMATE NEWS STORIES, BUT AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SEE A PATTERN?
Are these the same people who now seek to give the impression they want to know why relations between the Nation Newspaper, the PM, Government and DLP are so bad? Or that they want to see an improvement?
I have had reason in my column over the years to be critical of the PM, but I dare anyone to justify ascribing partisan political motives to my writing? Sorry folks, but I will not sit as the public face of any entity while others spin their webs in the background to suit their political king-making agendas.
I guess on reflection it is a compliment when you are called into a meeting and offered a separation package because “we have changes to make and your personality is too strong” for you to be the person in charge while those changes are being made.
I know I will return to this subject again. For now, Peace!!