A reader has sent me a video they made of the ZBM report on the whole media intimidation incident of the other day.
It’s not, you know, the best quality, being recorded with a phone watching the TV, but I think it’s good enough and I am very thankful for the reader for supplying it to me.
I would also like to take a moment here to congratulate ZBM for doing an excellent job in covering this incident; they’ve captured it almost from the very beginning and provided a lot more detail than may have been immediately apparent from the already excellent coverage provided by the Bermuda Sun and BerNews.
It makes it clear that the attempt to bar the journalist began right from the very start, when the journalist enters the building.
It should be noted that the Cabinet building is a public building – it also houses the Senate where anyone can go and watch when in session (with the exception of the rare closed door session). I’ve never been accosted like that going to the Senate, so it seems odd that this journalist was.
And the fact, displayed in the video, and also confirmed by the other journalists in the video, that no other journalist was singled out for such harassment or had to submit credentials in order to cover the press conference just makes the singling out of this one journalist all the more suspicious.
As previously noted, the official explanation given by the Government really doesn’t hold water. Personally I would hope that the Media Council itself releases a statement to clarify this, as it would appear to have been misrepresented by the Government here.
The video also has the journalist in question noting that he’s been in contact with the Government some time before hand, notified them that he was working as an independent journalist and would be attending press conferences, etc.
If the Government had some new policy in place, they had ample time to clarify that with the journalist before this incident – which further undermines the Government’s official explanation on this.
To be straight up, the Government looks like it’s trying to scramble out an explanation in an attempt to retroactively justify their actions here – and it’s not a good look for the Government here.
To me, it looks like the Government has sought to single out a particular journalist – one who in Bermuda has a reputation as one of our best investigative and political journalists – and attempt to (a) sabotage his ability to practice journalism in general; and (b) to attempt to critically question the Government.
As this video shows, the attempt to intimidate the media was a hilarious failure, and the Government now looks like it’s having to backpedal, justify it’s actions and been forced to abandon it’s attempts to sideline this one particular journalist.
And to be clear, attempts to silence, undermine or sideline one journalist IS an attempt to intimidate the media in general. It comes across as an attempt to send a message to all other media that unless their docile and simply report what the Government wants reported – that is, don’t talk back and question the Government – they will have obstacles put in their way.
I am very happy to see that this attempt failed and delighted to see that the bulk of the other media in Bermuda took a stand in solidarity with the independent journalist – although at the same time the lack of solidarity by the Royal Gazette and VSB will reinforce their image as tools of the OBA (inheritors of the UBP mantle) rather than independent and critical members of the media.
Whether that is fair or not is open to debate – that it will reinforce those views is likely nonetheless.
On a side note, Minister Gibbons really does not come across very well in this incident. Rather than attempting to resolve the issue and stand up for media freedoms, his comment came across as somewhat indifferent or even delighted at an attempt to discipline the media. [This sentence has been modified due to a tpyo.]
I’m sure he regrets his comments now – however it will no doubt also reinforce certain images of the UBP old guard within the OBA.