Tristan : SENSATIONAL REPORTING ABOUT TRISTAN - YOU CAN ALWAYS SAY SORRY
Submitted by Tristan Times (Juanita Brock) 16.05.2011 (Article Archived on 30.05.2011)
An exchange of letters below begun by Gillian Francis, St Helena’s Acting Chief Secretary, prompted me to agree with her
SENSATIONAL REPORTING ABOUT TRISTAN - YOU CAN ALWAYS SAY SORRY
An Editorial by J. Brock (Tristan Times)
An exchange of letters below begun by Gillian Francis, St Helena’s Acting Chief Secretary, prompted me to agree with her sentiments about a sensational piece written in the St Helena INDEPENDENT, which I found disgusting.
Along with press freedom there is also press responsibility to print, to the best standard, the truth; and the article about the injured person’s treatment was sensational, inaccurate and not in the public interest.
What’s unfortunate is that the independent media throughout the South Atlantic Islands will suffer from one person’s view of what press freedom is – and is not.
Throughout the entire area, from the Equator to the Antarctic, there are fewer than 10,000 people who have to put up with nonsense that is written about us in UK tabloids, as well as the St Helena INDEPENDENT. Being mistaken and later retracting a story with an apology is one thing; but to blatantly defend a lie is another.
We’ve been let down and tarred with the same brush; and I am disappointed.
Dear Mr Olsson,
1. I am obliged to follow up a couple of issues relating to material that has been broadcast by Saint FM in recent months, which contravenes your broadcasting licence conditions.
2. During the month of January 2011, Saint FM broadcast an item about the Doctor’s work on Tristan Da Cunha, indicating that surgical work on a patient had left the patient screaming in pain that could be clearly heard. In fact there were witnesses to the event and, enquiries in to these claims revealed that this was not the case. Witnesses were indeed sat outside the operating room at the time in question and reported that they heard no screams or any other noise. The patient was also spoken to and it was found that he was very satisfied with his treatment. If due diligence had been taken prior to the broadcast then Saint FM would have discovered that the allegations were without foundation.
3. Under section 1.2 of the News and Current Affairs Code, the Licence holder is required to broadcast only news which is accurate and duly impartial. The news about the operation was not accurate and as a result the Doctor in question almost left the island which of course would have left the island without medical cover, a potentially life threatening situation.
4. I am also informed that on Saturday evening 5th March 2011, broadcasters engaged in expressions of opinion on the question of consultants in a derogatory manner in contravention of section 1.5 of the aforesaid Code.
This not only serves to detract from the valuable work that is undertaken for the good of the whole island but can only serve to dissuade other consultants with essential skills from agreeing to travel to St Helena and thus potentially harming the prospects of moving forward for the benefit of all persons here.
5. It is recognised that Saint FM offers a valuable service to the South Atlantic community and the diaspora at large but such service is counter-productive if through breaches of journalistic standards accepted worldwide as proper and appropriate, the people of the South Atlantic are denied the valuable contribution its islands through ill-informed and inaccurate comments.
6. You are no doubt aware of your duty as a Licence holder under s.5 of the Telecommunications Ordinance Cap 106 to perform your obligations under the Licence. You are also aware that the Government of St Helena may serve notice of intention to revoke your Licence. This is of course a step that the Governor has no wish to take.
7. I trust that you will now ensure that Saint FM desists from any further broadcasts of the type I have outlined or any further breaches of the terms and conditions attached to the Broadcasting Licence and that no further action will be necessary.
Acting Chief Secretary
Cc: Members of Executive Council
Mrs Gillian Francis
Acting Chief Secretary
Dear Mrs Francis,
Thank you for the letter dated 5th May 2011 which was received 9th May. It is obvious that your letter is another attempt by St Helena Government to stifle free media and freedom of information on the Island.
1. Your points about the doctor in Tristan da Cunha (Your points 1 and 2) were being discussed excessively with DfID during January and February. DfID decided to drop any issue against Saint FM in late February 2011. Your comment on 5th May 2011, four months later, has no bearing on the matter or on any broadcasting licence. We are seriously questioning why this matter has been brought to our attention four months after the event if it was an alleged breach of any terms or conditions of our broadcasting licence.
2. You are referring to a broadcast 5th March 2011 in your points 4 and 5. Your complaint is not substantiated and as the period of recording of the broadcast has expired, we have no possibility to respond to your complaint. However, we can assume that the broadcast might have included a certain amount of satire, which in broadcasts all over the world is considered ‘comme il faut’ in a Saturday night after ‘watershed’ hours. As your complaint has not been specified or substantiated, we are not able to answer in any detail.
3. Your points 6 and 7 falls after the answers given above and the points can only be seen as threats against free media and human rights. We quote from your letter:
“Any further broadcasts of the type I have outlined or any further breaches of the terms and conditions attached to the Broadcasting Licence and that no further action will be necessary”
By your statement you have made yourself judge and jury over media and freedom of expression on the Island. You have already, without hearing the other side, judged our broadcasts as breach of our broadcasting licence. This will not be taken easily under the current circumstances.
Your letter will not be treated as a formal complaint as it bears no proven substance.
Your letter, together with our response, will be published in the St Helena Independent on Friday, 13th May.
Any further attempts to stifle human rights on the Island will be treated far more harshly.
Mike Olsson, Saint FM
Dear Mr Olsson,
Thank you for your email dated 9th May 2011. I accept and take full responsibility for the delay in bringing these concerns to your attention.
However, these matters had to be investigated and this, together with other demands on my time, contributed to the delay. In recognition of that delay, I refrained from asking for a retraction of the inaccurate information that was broadcast.
I can assure you that SHG has no desire to stifle free media and freedom of information. My letter of 5 May merely fulfils the duties of the Governor in Council acting as Licensing Authority by bringing to your attention, the requirement to comply with the Broadcasting Licence conditions.
I would respectfully request that you comply in future with the terms of your licence and ensure that the material you broadcast is accurate and, under those circumstances no further action will be necessary.
I give you permission should you publish the other letters to also publish this one.
Acting Chief Secretary