May 2, 2017
Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media's Role in Advancing Peaceful and Inclusive Societies
Minister of Public Administration and Communications, the Honourable Maxie Cuffie joins the local media fraternity and the rest of the world in observing World Press Freedom Day today.
Like every other celebration, it affords us all the opportunity for introspection and this year’s theme: “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s Role in Advancing Peaceful and Inclusive Societies” is especially apropos, given the current state of affairs, locally, regionally and internationally. The phenomenal rise in the use of social media has certainly contributed to a more knowledgeable citizenry. Perhaps unwittingly though, it has given free rein to those with less than noble intent to spread a level of misinformation or “alternative facts”, hate-inspired rhetoric and xenophobic hysteria that is unprecedented.
I wholeheartedly concur then with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who, in his message to mark the occasion, has noted that “a free press advances peace and justice for all.” This can be achieved, he argues by the media “giving voice to a diversity of experiences, by conﬂict-sensitive professional reporting, by promoting mutual understanding in particular in societies that have become polarized by hate speech or antagonistic political discourse; by dispelling prejudice and by countering the spread of misinformation.”
The local media continues to enjoy a level of freedom that is unparalleled in many parts of the world. Indeed, the most recent installment of the World Press Freedom Index has seen Trinidad and Tobago jumping 10 places from our 2016 position to be 34th out of 180 countries in 2017, a far cry from 2012 when we occupied position 50.
As a former journalist entrusted with the management of a news team, I am aware that there are occasions when we could be found “guilty of not taking cognizance of the enormity of the challenges and responsibilities that we carry on our shoulders,” and so I encourage our news room heads, our editors, our reporters and talk show hosts, and our media house owners to accept in its totality, the sacred responsibility upon which they embark every day – to inform, inspire, educate and entertain. I am confident that the more we encourage critical minds to flourish unimpeded in these critical times, the more valuable would be our contribution to the growth and development of both the profession of journalism, and our beloved country.