Last update: 09-Dec-2013 1:43 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Hawkins pulls out Matt race
In the run-up to the Media Association of T&T executive elections this weekend, the CCN group is paying the membership fees for its Express and TV6 reporters to join the organisation. The final week has also seen campaigns by several nominees and one withdrawal from the race for president. Francesca Hawkins, newsreader for CNC3 and former Matt secretary, notified the interim management team this week that she had pulled out of the race. She had been nominated by many colleagues and initially accepted the nomination, but withdrew citing personal reasons. Her name, however, will remain on the ballot paper in case she rescinds her decision to pull out.
The most prominent campaigner across social media has been Sheldon Yearwood, whose YouTube video, titled “Sheldon Yearwood for Matt President!!!,” was posted by the WIN Communications channel. Yearwood is head of news and current affairs at WIN TV, based in Chaguanas, and in the seven-minute clip he delivers an earnest speech setting out his vision. Speaking to the T&T Guardian on Wednesday, Yearwood said he looked forward to the “rebirth of journalistic ethics in this country.” He said journalists had collectively “abused the right of press freedom and caused the public to lose respect for the profession. I want to see the introduction of a code of ethics.” “We cannot hold the government of this country to account without first holding ourselves as an industry to account,” he said. Anil Goorahoo is also running for president. He has worked and taught in the media for 23 years and wrote a column on Monday setting out his agenda. He also sent a three-part memo to Matt members and media practitioners titled “Towards A Stronger Matt.”
In a telephone interview, he said Matt had been dysfunctional for some time and that as president he would specifically like to implement training programmes. He stressed how important the media are in a small country like T&T. “A bad doctor might kill 40,000 in his lifetime, a bad lawyer might wrongly imprison 40,000 people. A bad journalist can infect a whole nation with one bad news report,” he said. Meanwhile, Faine Richards, of TV6, and Omatie Lyder, editor-in-chief of the Trinidad Express, confirmed that the CCN media group was footing the bill for any of its staff who want to join the association. The fees are an initial $50 to join and an annual fee of $50. Matt is a professional organisation of individual journalists. Membership is not compulsory and Matt has no regulatory powers. Richards said the move was not an attempt to dominate the executive but is designed to encourage and facilitate support of Matt from inside the media house. She told the T&T Guardian that in her position as a member of the interim Matt board, she had “set out to create a really diverse executive nominee list that is representative of all types of media, all ages and all levels of experience.”
CCN has the highest number of nominees for the elections, fielding seven of the 25 candidates. Guardian Media Ltd has five candidates, WIN Communications has four. The remaining nominees are freelancers working across the T&T media landscape, many of them from radio stations. Lyder, a candidate for assistant secretary, declined to comment when asked what the motivations were for senior management at the Express paying the membership fees for its staff. Lasana Liburd, a member of Matt's interim board, said it would be preferable if the elected executive comprised a cross-section of the media. “In government, if everyone comes from the same party and the same background, it undermines equal representation. It is the same in media,” he said. Liburd, sports writer and managing director at Wired 868, also confirmed that the method of voting—written into Matt’s constitution as an election by show of hands—would be addressed. Ahead of the voting tomorrow, he said, there will first be a vote to determine whether members instead want to hold the election by secret ballot. Some members reportedly feel the show-of-hands method, while transparent, has in previous years created pressure on voters to vote for friends and colleagues from their own media houses.
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