The Minister of Information and Broadcasting has defended his announced plan to place restrictions on the media amid a fierce backlash from some quarters.
Dominic Fedee said the idea to establish a Broadcast Commission to regulate media activity originated from the St Lucia Media Workers Association during the previous administration.
He said he was merely picking up from where former Information Minister Jimmy Fletcher had left off in starting discussion on the idea.
Fedee, a former journalist, has come under heavy criticism since he proposed the idea in parliament during last week’s budget address.
Critics accuse him of attempting to stifle press freedom and curtail free speech in St Lucia.
“We came in and we met a bill that the previous administration was actually presiding over,” Fedee told journalists on Thursday. “It came about as a request from the former executive of the Media Workers Association. The media workers went to the then Minister of Information, which would have been Dr Jimmy Fletcher, and expressed tremendous concern about the state of the media in St Lucia, about standards. And so this really came about from you, from the media.”
In announcing the bill, Fedee singled out SLP-leaning talk show host, Christopher Hunte as flouting acceptable media standards on his daily television talk show Politically Incorrect.
“I have referenced a particular talk show and that is because it is the most recent example of where journalism was appalling,” he said. “You tell me as media professionals if you will allow someone to swear and to use profanity on the air. I’ve never seen anyone of you do that and I don’t think anyone of you would be so bold to defend that,” he added.
Opposition Leader Phillip J Pierre said he was surprised by the apparent silence to the Minister’s announcement, particularly from those who vociferously opposed a similar move by the St Lucia Labour Party several years ago. However Pierre said his Labour Party will stand up for a free press and free speech in St Lucia.
“I’ll tell you something. This Labour Party will stand up for the rights of free expression, will stand up for the rights of citizens to express their opinions,” Pierre stated.
Fedee said a task-force will be set up to set the way forward for the proposed bill. He said his intention was not to silence anyone but to simply commence discussions on the establishment of a Broadcast Commission in St Lucia.