Unworshipping The Media, Reversing Decay of Ethics

Since 1977 Curaçao has its national press day on the 1st of September. The original proclamation indicates very clearly that this day is to put emphasis on the role of the media, freedom of expression and to reflect upon it. A yearly assessment of mass communication experienced by its members and society it serves.

This written commitment during
its 35 years of existence to raise awareness amongst all media members, government, corporate
and social sector and the public in general hasn’t ripened yet. The 25 radio stations, 9 newspapers, 2 weeklies, 3 tv stations have various challenges to confront outside but foremostly inside their own outlets. Media patrons didn’t start out with
the noble intention to enlighten their communities by seeking truth and publishing it in all thoroughness
and purity. According to them its a business and in 2012 there’s little space for constant accurate fair reporting media which brings forth social change. Reporters, journalists, talk show hosts all of them blur
reality with their social-corporate and political affiliated views. Newspapers with bloody frontpages, radio news hours filled with bickering mud-slinging politicians or sensational
tv news bulletins are products of underpaid journalists, reporters without trade union representation trying to serve the public while enduring unfavorable working conditions. All these factors indicate how the media led by its owners
and their business interests have shaped a mediocre atmosphere full
of self-censureship.

Last year press day was like the previous ones, plagued by the fear
of analyzing their own flaws in the same manner they would examine and criticize their daily news subjects. Just a big happy family reunion day. No panel discussions on self-regulation. No debates on a code of ethics. No conference about the necessity of a Media Ombudsman, media ownership law or a modernized media policy improving their below average standards. Realization of secondary schools with journalism, media classes should be a prime
topic. Alternative economic models
to guarantee a genuine Curaçao independent media with decent wages, insurance and pension plans should be discussed.

The embodiment of self-ridicule is evident when in the recent past
press members allowed the biggest Curaçaoan bank Maduro & Curiel to pamper them on their day with a trip on a 18th century sailing ship in the bay of Santa Anna. Or accepting Blackberry’s from Digicel as a gift. These are subtle mediatic bribes preventing the media to report critically about the financial and commercial sector in a balanced manner which for decades led the public astray from financial literacy
in order to critically judge the performance of powerful financial institutions and consequently create
a catalyst for financial change.

The decay of the media comes in many forms. A newspaper which daily bread consists of court cases, crime acts and car accidents is a mal-nutrient for their specific lower, working-class target group mentally and spiritually. Politically biased radio talk and morning news shows manipulate their listeners by framing their daily programs according to the interests they serve.
Whether its tv, radio or print the root of the problem stays the same if you raise an audience without daily social, economical, financial, educational, cultural, spiritual programming. Politics from 7 am till 9 am. Politics from 10 am till 12pm. Politics from 12 pm till 2 pm. Politics from 3 pm till 5 pm. Politics from 5 pm till 9 pm.
That’s how you deliberately politically zombify a nation. Being hoodwinked on a daily basis by these media barons will never contribute fully to shape critical analytical citizens.

Demissionary prime minister Gerrit Schotte labeled the non stop criticism and incessantly political agenda setting media the overlords of a ‘mediacracy’ of course which he utilized without complaints before he became head of the new government. Some media personalities downplayed the existence of government by the media influenced by the powers that be. The undeniable fact is that a great amount of news is presented with minor content, sketching an image entertaining the audience with a pre-fabricated reality. A periodically media research should be a priority to determine the current state of the media, its performance, the various degrees of agenda setting culture connected to a valuable info credit rating for the public to select their reliable media of preference.

The few dissent media voices much needed to be heard have always blamed their own colleagues
including themselves that the
media is the main cause of most problems in our society. The continuous prominent featuring of non-issues to distract the audience
is a well known dumbing down strategy. A moratorium on this downward spiraled newsgathering form should have been enforced simultaneously with the birth of Curaçao’s 10-10-10 country status.
People are starting to realize that low value news editions are caused by artificial cutthroat competition and media mergers could form one big solid cost effective company with high quality news. To crystalize this you would need uniformity of thoughts and actions perhaps a top priority for the recently nascent Curaçao Media Foundation guided by veteran Extra photographer Stanley Ignacio to reestablish trust and loyalty to ethics within the media landscape.

Disrael Orphelin a communication expert explained the journalism integrity crisis as the following:
The moment more media outlets established through uncontrolled issueing of permits by befriended governments was the moment that director Orlando Cuales from Z86 a pioneering radio station felt its luxury life endangered and switched their ethics code.

Once a promoter of freedom of speech Z86 professionalized the tradition to censure certain sociopolitical leaders. Resulting into a new generation of ‘yes men’ journalists to survive and run a commercial media company. News coverage started losing more of its purity and that’s why Helmin Wiels from the independence party Pueblo Soberano copied a bottom up grassroots approach from his ex leader Nelson Pierre to create his own niche of unrestricted critical political theory news in a working class tongue. A gap in the market that he’s been filling for almost a decade.

Media, corporate world, union, religious players and politicians have all invoked demagoguery to gain an audience. So you would need fact-checking instruments, media watch advocates and programs to bring back and keep their integrity at a high level.

Dutch colonial rule also has left its psychosomatic mark on the media. Every time an issue presents between the Curacao and Dutch government you will have our minister giving his/her side to the story but 99.9% a journalist working for a Papiamentu speaking media will not pick up the phone and do an interview with a Dutch minister or press officer to clarify the situation.
Or when there’s a press conference, timidity among journalists prevents them from getting satisfactory answers on the issue in focus.
And every week there will be a “problem” between Curacao and the Netherlands so the question arises if its fear of proper Dutch language dominance or a post-traumatic slavery disorder that affects most media members (Dutch + Papiamentu) to take an assertive stance and demand declarations on concerning issues from the Dutch?

Numerous times Papiamentu media is inclined to leave taboo covered topics or politically sensitive cases to the Dutch media. (Locally financed and the Dutch public financed) A great deal of sociopolitical issues will reflect a melange of Dutch and ‘Krioyo’ pro Dutch power elite interests the strong ties censures the exposure of their wrongdoings. The relationship between Curacao and Netherlands is narrated as a modern pre-emancipation plantation novel. Nurturing and conserving a predominantly pro neo-colonial conscience veiled by cultural paraphernalia as a front to claim Curacaoan identity. The Dutch media never familiarized themselves with methodical decolonization news coverage undermining the mental transformation of their demographics, the middle and upper class Curacaoans. Fully supporting and consolidating the underdevelopment of Papiamentu media by their everlasting Dutch paternalistic media presence is a cloaked form of media colonialism. A full circle problem.

An other side-effect of Dutch colonialism is how we in the past have isolated ourselves from the region. Local media barons never shown any interests to inform the public what’s happening through out the Caribbean, Latin America and the U.S. Its this neo-colonial arrogance that limits our vision our opportunities to connect on all levels. At times the media makes people think Curacao is an island next to Holland in Europe.

Last October the first media, communication, journalism studies supposed to start but just like last year it got cancelled due to lack of interest. This year there has not even been attempts to try it. Media patrons are not interested in having newsrooms with academically trained journalists. Corporate, governmental entities and above all the good governance demanding Dutch government never took an active
role in creating an independent education journalism institute.
This hybrid hypocrisy is the main cause of this organizational media brouhaha.

Journalists should get out of their
ivory towers and learn from Bonaire. Mr. Boi Antoin chief editor for EXTRA newspaper a self-made journalist decided to pass over his knowledge
of the truth telling trade to those interested on our sister island.
Giving free journalism classes as
he sees the need of having a new generation of journalists to strengthen the quality of independent media culture.

Social media still hasn’t forced its breakthrough in mainstream media.
A media outlet will use a blog, BBM, Facebook or Twitter updates only if it fits their political, corporate agenda. Most of the time they are purposely blocking the development of social media reports. Because of its rapidly high aware making activity and its
raw unfiltered content it will remain
a threat to the established media
and therefore daily consulted, but isolated and censured.

The revitalization of a truthful media seems a losing battle unless practitioners abandon the hyper-ignorance, take up the challenge to distance themselves from the institutionalized malice news coverage machinery. May this critique be a step towards a new era of informing our communities.

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