*Please note that I had inaccurately stated "Hours after..." in paragraph five. The conference at which the UDP ministers were interviewed actually took place in the morning. It was the PUP press conference that took place in the afternoon. Therefore, it was not 'hours after' but hours earlier. I assumed that the UDP ministers were interviewed after the PUP conference because that was the order it was presented in most news media. It was not until recently when I found Patrick Jones report that I realized this.
Last week, I noted that many of The Publisher’s (Evan X Hyde) past writings on media politics and civil society were reflected in the coverage of the “Mother’s Day cheer.” Politicians and journalists all struggled to define what meanings and values were to be associated with the “cheer.” In so doing, one observes the continued normalization of party politics (PUDP) and the role of the media therein.
|Anthony "Boots" Martinez|
Several observations are worth recounting here: The first is the question of “objectivity” in the media. It is said that media should be the watchdog of democracy. But who is feeding the dog? (Hon?) Anthony “Boots” Martinez accused Channel 5 of “not [being] objective at all”. Of course, Martinez was merely struggling to articulate a positive image of himself and the UDP.
But this reminded me of Amandala’s past attribution of the power-interest that Ashcroft and the PUP have in Channel 5. This perhaps also rationalizes why Channel 5 did not include the question and response segment by Jules Vasquez in which he questioned the PUP’s “moral authority” to call upon civil society.
Whereas News7 sought to “balance” the perspective by stating that the PUP was guilty of similar practices, they also displayed some power-interests. They did not include (Hon?) Francis Fonseca’s full response to the question posed by Jules. In his response, Fonseca mentioned that the Barrow administration came to power “saying to the Belizean people that he would blaze a new trail, that he would do things differently.” In a classic PUDP rhetoric, Fonseca also wanted us to believe that when they come to power that they will do things differently. In the end, News7’s segment concluded on a note of reminding us of how unsuccessful the PUP was in their 2008 “cheer” program.
|Image from 7News|
The Guardian and Belize Times also contributed in keeping the “cheer program” within the domain of the PUDP. Each claims that it is the other political party that is disenfranchising the Belizean people. These outlets provide much of the “common-sense” rhetoric that sustains the PUDP. The Guardian presented the “cheer” program as something noble of Government. They boldly declared: “PUP Has No Love for Mothers”. As for The Belize Times, they provided no independent analysis of the “cheer.” They simply reprinted the speeches given by the PUP members at the conference. Regrettably, to their loyal readers, these newspapers make perfect sense.
Another issue to bring up is the use of the word “political” by politicians and the media. (Hon?) Balderamos said that the cheer program was “partisan” and “political”. Hours after, (Hon?) Martinez was claiming that the media was making the “cheer” a “political thing”. The term “political” is used by the media and politicians to undermine any critique and resistance to the PUDP. This translates into the fact that when a resistance (such as this letter, a speech, or demonstration) is branded as “political” it is viewed as nothing less than a biased, self-serving, and unfounded action. It is branded as pro-PUP (or pro-UDP, depending on which is power and who is saying it). It is time that journalists take issue with the use of this word and begin to unmask the rhetoric of the PUDP.
On a final note, the power of the PUDP continues to re-establish itself by way of politician’s rhetoric and the lack of active civil society organizations. When the UDP ministers were interviewed, they all claimed that the “cheer” was a “transparent” program and that it was legitimate because it was a “decision by Cabinet.”
However, all media houses gave us different estimates of the “cheer”: Amandala $750,000, Plus TV $800,000, 7News $850,000, Channel 5 $1,000,000. Party politics continues to affect us but as (Hon?) Godwin Hulse would have it: that is just the “nature of the political beast”.
Well, the beast must be taken down. Where are the civil society organizations in this country? Where are the feminist/womanist organizations that ought to be outraged by this injustice? If we are to move forward, there must be a serious interrogation and dismantling of the “common-sense” logic and divisive practice of party politics in Belize. This is political.
Keep strong Belizeans,