In a culture of openness, transparency and accountability, rules and regulations need no defense. In such a culture, individuals behave well; faults are readily admitted and corrected; emphasis is placed on progress and development and not on justifying and excusing indefensible, outmoded privilege.
Front page newspaper photographs of Parliamentarians speaking on the floor of the House of Assembly are taken for granted.
It is therefore difficult to comprehend the speaker of the House ordering the clerk to ensure that anything taken on a cell phone by a Guardian reporter in the House of Assembly last Wednesday were to be deleted. The offense seemingly was the use of a cell phone to capture images in the House. This is a House whose proceedings are televised and carried live on a dedicated parliamentary channel since 1994.
Somewhere in the recesses of the mind of the speaker a photograph taken in the House of Assembly on a cell phone is not allowed but one taken on a traditional camera is just fine. I am convinced that I was not the only one confused by the speaker’s behavior or by the feeble attempts by others to blame outmoded rules of the House of Assembly for forcing the speaker’s hand.
The use of cell phones and iPads by members while in the House of Assembly was also some time ago prohibited until the use of both so proliferated among members, including Cabinet ministers, that the prohibition died a quiet death.
When a rule offends it is rightly disregarded. At the earliest opportunity it is corrected so that it does not cause offense.
Silly rules should not be enforced. If enforced, they should be called out and not justified. There are many property papers in this country that stipulate that ownership is prohibited to persons not of the Caucasian race. While these offensive stipulations have not been removed from offending documents, no sane person has sought to enforce such ludicrous conditions here since before Majority Rule in 1967.
Last week, the speaker also tried to link the use of cell phone cameras by legitimate journalists in the House of Assembly to the spread of “fake news” on social media.
Of course, newspaper reporters and the newspapers they work for do not control social media posts and are powerless to correct and replace misinformation circulating on social media.
Their best response to misinformation is their commitment to honest journalism. Good journalists do not create news. Their job is to report news in stories that are accurate, fair, balanced and impartial. In this way the public gets both sides of a story helping them to develop their own independent views and opinions.
Some politicians would prefer to be the only source of information to the public and hence the only influencers on the development of public opinions.
Fortunately, the Fourth Estate is firmly implanted in Bahamian history and culture reaching far back into the earliest of colonial times.
The large number of newspapers, radio and television stations in The Bahamas today represent the interests of many different groups. They play an important role in keeping the public up to date on what the government is doing in their name. They also reveal policies, strategies and practices of business houses frequented by the public daily.
When governments grow uncomfortable with how they are being portrayed in the media they would be wise to take a long look in the mirror.
The days when governing parties and official oppositions in this country could convince comfortable majorities of the people to accept their propaganda as fact have passed.
The recent amateurish effort by a Free National Movement party statement to portray the present government as delivering on a commitment to transparency and accountability is only topped by the clumsy efforts by representatives of the official opposition to convince the public that the Progressive Liberal Party’s leopard has changed its spots.