The end of Me and Mr. Sabga Newsletter.

I’ve been trying since Wednesday to find the words to say to make sense of this Guardian folly.
I’ve never felt like the Guardian was the bastion of free press, I’ve read enough of its archive to know that since its 19 Century inception, through Independence through to 1970, the Guardian guards not democracy but the status quo, the elite power structures that keep some of us as masters and the rest of us as slaves.
The key to running a morally and socially bankrupt society is to ensure that you have certain people and institutions that keep people in their place.
People like me find a space in newspapers like the Guardian, because it fits their profile to appear to fair and balanced.
Yet I’ve had several occasions during my time as a columnist when I have had my right to fair comment compromised or threatened.
I had a public spat at a media briefing organized by ALCOA with Anthony Wilson who accused me of being unethical for writing about the smelter issue while I was involved as an activist.
And then in 2009 when Obama was coming for the Fifth Summit of the Americas, I got a call from the then Public Affairs editor Arthur Dash saying that he had been advised to let me know that there was no space for my column the following day. It was only after I made a scene on social media that they miraculously found space for my column again.
I’ve kept my column because I feel like I have things to say about Trinidad, about who we are and who we hope to become.
Few of us have a clear agenda. And that’s okay because it’s only through open discussion and constructive criticism that we’ll start to refine what that agenda is.
But I’m not sure all the voices in the conversation are focused on creating a better country.
The media needs a lot of scrutiny. As much if not more than the government.
A free press and a functional government go hand in hand and it is becoming more and more obvious that we have neither.
And MATT is not the watchdog it should be. If it was, this country would have been shut down the moment Sheila Rampersad, Denyse Renne and Anika Sandiford-Gumbs decided to pick up their jahaaji bundle and ride out. Or when Fazeer Mohammed got removed from First Up. Or when Uncle Jack threatened Denyse Renne and Asha Javeed.
But I guess MATT and the media are made up of citizens like the rest of us. You know, who have a mortgage. And 2.5 children. And long hard days. And hours in traffic.
And if nobody else is willing to, why should journalists sacrifice themselves for the nation’s entertainment?
Just like the public sector and the private sector and the unions and the churches and mosques and temples and the education system, some of my colleagues put their political affiliations before country. And some of us eating a food like the same ones we want to point fingers at. And some of us just looking for bacchanal. And some of us have allegiance to nothing.
Selfishness has us where we are and selfishness will take us where we’re going: nowhere.
The question of who stays and who goes is not the question. The question is who is keeping all of us accountable to each other? And if one person falls on their sword who is going to put up money to make sure they can buy groceries at the end of the month?
The stress and confusion and the lack of the full story created in the last couple days has exactly the desired effect of distracting us what from is really happening and that is the looting not just of the Treasury but our bank of collective responsibility.
They, (and by they I mean we), are trying to keep us in a state of fear and self-revulsion and we are obliging them.
Fear sells papers. And security services. And burglar proof. Fear is big business and the state is acting like a corporate entity peddling garbage and treating its workers like animals.
Once at the beginning of my time as a reporter an editor told me my only role was to fill space and meet deadlines.
I couldn’t reconcile that with what I imagined a journalist to be. I’m reminded of that ridiculous speech when I hear Gabriel Faria, followed by the about turn by MATT three days after they claimed that freedom of the press was under seige.
What we are watching is a freakshow where freedom and excellence are trotted out and flogged by clowns like Mr. Faria the mouthpiece of ‘establishment’ who I’ve never heard in a media context until a couple days ago. I want to know if he ever get a boof from George John. He has neither the professional nor moral authority to have anything to say about journalism.
He and the rest of the GML/AnsaMcAL massas wouldn’t know what excellence is to a journalist if somebody hit them with a Thesaurus. But they get to shout jump and the newsroom must start to levitate.
A journalist is no use without an audience. A newspaper can’t sell without journalists. They need us as much as we need them but somehow the power relationship is skewed and the journalists end up feeling like media owners are doing them a favour.
I’d rather not write for a paper that makes me or my colleagues unsure of who is going to make you bend to their will or wine for your supper.
I have nothing to trade with the world but words. Words and my reputation. My reputation is that I say and do what I think is right. I have a conscience and this is what it has been shouting at me since Wednesday: No compromise. They are threatening people’s livelihoods and that is not just madness it is criminal.
No compromise. This is war and if all citizens aren’t prepared to fight we might as well lie down and dead.

22 thoughts on “The end of Me and Mr. Sabga Newsletter.

  1. Hi Tillah
    Just read your wonderful piece and needed to say how proud I am of you. Keep your integrity intact and forward on. The world is yours not Sabga’s!
    Zena xxxxxooooo

  2. People have to understand that you can’t fight the beast from inside its belly. It’s impossible when it is already digesting you. No more than you can help the slaves when you are the overseer. Stand up, stand up!

  3. I think you are making a mistake by leaving. The Guardian is a conservative institution that needs to be dragged into the 21st century, and as you state, the balance of power is skewed, but that won’t change if you storm off. In T&T people often leave various organisations, trade unions, political parties, steelbands, if they meet opposition to their desires or their vision. But that ensures the institution remains the same. If the Guardian is willing to admit its mistake, then it’s a victory to be built on, not cast away in scorn. Of course the decision is yours to make, and to dress in whatever heroic garments you choose, but I think it is unethical and dishonest to suggest that people who disagree are any less committed to the highest ideals of journalism. We need to stop labelling those who disagree with us as cowards, traitors, anti-T&T sell-outs. After all, disagreement and discourse are precisely what journalism is intended to protect and encourage.

    • MATT is or should be all of us. Media people who believe MATT should be a “watchdog” owe it to themselves to give effort to making the body into that kind of dog. Enough members, or would-be members, failed to show up at the last annual meeting to enable election of new executive. People in the media need actively to assert ownership of MATT, the only show of its kind in town for a media community organisation. Lennox Grant

      • Quite right Lennox, as in everything else we believe a few must fight the battles and the rest can benefit. However it can’t be done unless you have the backing of all.

    • I believe leaving was the ethical thing to do. The conservative lean of the Guardian reflects the character of its owners and readers passed on down, that is their right. Be yourself where you are at home free to say what you think, even if its a blog.

  4. i have followed your writing for a while and you have always been consistent,the jameete of st vincent street as patrick chokolingo called them ,places profit over public information,where is the objectivity

  5. the whole story,which journos are always chasing, has not been told yet. more to come. things are not always as they seem. and sometimes it takes more strength to stay and save something worth saving than to go. don’t assume people did not rush to the door because of self-interest.

  6. I totally disagree with Kim and EW. “Two can’t walk together save they agree”. A self sacrificing stand must be taken. This shit going on too long. Remember Jones P Madiera?
    Judy Raymond disappoints me.

  7. you have renewed my faith on humanity all is not lose thank you and keep on believing on yourself and your integrity

  8. Good article A.S. After all the talk and good comments, who is willing to take that ultimate stand. We are as a people are not prepared to die for what we believe. Talk Cheap!

  9. Pingback: Trinidad & Tobago's Media Association “Pulls a 180″ in Press Freedom Debacle | Michael Florin

  10. @Kim
    ‘The only thing worse than blindness is having sight but no vision.

    The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself..….”

  11. Continue to press on my sister to the mark of your high calling. Do not allow your professional integrity to be comprised by these political sycophants.

  12. Pingback: Trinidad & Tobago’s Media Association Pulls a 180 in Press Freedom Debacle · Global Voices

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