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2002-09-03 15:52:34

Blankenship's Blunder

The Bahama Journal

The management of Jones Communications Limited today expressed grave disappointment in the recent remarks of the American Ambassador J. Richard Blankenship.

Wendall Jones, Chief Executive Officer of the company, comprising The Bahama Journal and Love 97, said the Ambassador's comments to the media this past Friday should give pause to not only media personnel, but to Bahamians everywhere, as Mr. Blankenship issued a veiled threat to his critics in the Bahamas.

The Ambassador told the press, "I will continue to look at the manner in which people conduct themselves. And when there are personal attacks, I will not respond publicly to them, I will remember them."

Mr. Jones said, "This is a threat to intimidate media in The Bahamas and it ought to be condemned by freedom loving people everywhere. The Government of The Bahamas must now take another look at the many offensive pronouncements of Mr. Blankenship in recent times and consider whether he is functioning in the best interest of U.S.-Bahamian relations.

"As for Love 97 and The Bahama Journal, we will continue to strive for excellence in journalism and will not be cowed by anyone in the execution of our professional duties."

Mr. Jones said when the Ambassador was called upon to apologise for discriminating against sections of the media, the call was made after wide consultation with media experts.

The Ambassador has apparently still not grasped the error in his judgment, according to Mr. Jones.

Mr. Blankenship recently granted what he called "an exclusive interview" to two media entities with members of a U.S. Congressional sub-committee. The Ambassador said he will "continue to grant exclusive interviews on a selective basis."

Mr. Jones said it is elementary in journalism that an exclusive interview is granted to one entity.

When the Ambassador allowed ZNS and the Nassau Guardian to interview the Congressional Committee, the interview was not exclusive and thus discriminatory to the other entities.

Mr. Blankenship said that he would not apologise for his action. In a clear reference to Mr. Jones - who had demanded an apology - Mr. Blankenship advised that he, "get a life and move on and to try to find other things to improve his reporting."

Mr. Jones said that media in The Bahamas have always enjoyed a warm relationship with U.S. Ambassadors over the last three decades, so when Mr. Blankenship tells a media executive who objects to his treatment "to get a life," this sullies that long-standing relationship and is not in the interest of U.S. - Bahamian relations.

Meanwhile, the International Press Association wants Mr. Blankenship to explain why he blocked certain members of the press from the congressional interview.

This action could establish a "deplorable precedent" in the relationship between the media and the U.S. Embassy, an association letter stated.

A Press Association official, Robert J. Cox, said there appears to have been "a violation of the media's right to obtain information without discrimination."

This latest round of controversy surrounds Mr. Blankenship, who comes from a country that has freedom of the press ingrained in its Constitution. 

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