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Caribbean media underperforming; “social justice” gap must be filled – CDB President

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 August 2023, 18:28 by Denis Chabrol

President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon.

The President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon says media in the region are not performing effectively, for instance, in the areas of helping people to cope with natural disasters and address crime.

“In small, vulnerable states, Caribbean media are particularly important to support relief and recovery efforts as well as disaster mitigation. But I fear the industry is not doing enough to educate and inform its audiences on various platforms about the multiplicity of challenges and changes that are and will continue to impact lives and livelihoods,” he said.

He made the observation in an address to the opening of the 54th Annual General Assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) being held in Antigua from August 14 to 16.

During devastating hurricanes in Grenada, and Dominica those islands’ media connectivity with the rest of the world had been cut off for days. Eventually, Barbados’ state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation had beamed programming to Grenada in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. Dominica’s devastation was first known to the rest of the world through a United Kingdom newspaper.

Dr Leon urged media workers to consider changing the way cover crime by merely rushing to social media with pictures and text but to examine the wide-ranging impacts of crime on the health sector itself, the cost of health care and the wider economic impact of crime on the wider society. What is missing, is greater analysis into the causes of these crimes and the ripple effects across other sectors of society,” he said.

The CDB President sought to assure the media that he was not telling them to stop reporting crime but stressed the need to accompany reporting by more analysis of the issues so that the citizens were aware of the drivers of crimes and work being done by governments and civil society to reduce or cushion the impact of crime. “We cannot become de-sensitised to rising crime rates because they are not happening in “my” neighborhood,” he added.

He also identified the need for the media to play a greater role in countering misinformation and disinformation, as he alluded to adverse impact of wrong information during the COVID-19 pandemic that led many persons “down a rabbit hole.”

According to Dr Leon, there is a “social justice” obligation by a free and active Caribbean media whose responsibility is to inform and help promote development by influencing the social psyche through the active management of content that would lead to behavioural change.  “That is what is required now to change the social psyche of the region,” he said.

The President of the Barbados-headquartered regional financial institution announced that the CDB’s Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF), a financial instrument, has over the past eight months developed Knowledge Management and Communications Strategy to guide a sustainable approach to information sharing.

As part of that focus, he said the BNTF has engaged with the CBU to sponsor a category of its Annual Media Awards. That award, he said, would focus on BNTF strategic areas- poverty alleviation, education, health, gender and climate change- and be run across multiple platforms such as print, television, radio, and digital. Dr Leon anticipated that this Award would greatly increase media coverage and visibility on BNTF in all nine participating countries.

The CDB-CBU partnership,he said, is expected to see the dissemination of videos being produced by BNTF. He said that in addition to sharing these videos on YouTube, social media, and traditional media, BNTF would share those videos with the CBU so that they could be made freely available to CBU’s membership for broadcast. “This broadens the scope of dissemination and visibility of the BNTF, as well as increase awareness of the social justice and development agenda,” he said.

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August 2023