The Grenada Revolution Online

Gairy and the Media

On March 8, 1951 Eric Gairy made his first appeal to his people to stop their violence on radio from a British battleship. Gairy delivered his infamous "Black Power in Grenada" speech on 3 May 1970 on WIBS. He made one of many State Broadcasts on WIBS on 6 April 1971, in reference to the nurses strike:

"Why should taxpayers' money go to idle young women who choose to jump in the streets like 'jour ouvert' masqueraders? . . . If they like to demonstrate like masqueraders and to protest at every single thing, we like it better. If they like to spend a month or so in court, we love it too. My police officers can spare time in court watching them and guiding them to the public facilities when they require to use them.'"

Gairy continuously used WIBS/Radio Grenada to vent his anger against the 'NJM rebels.' It was from Radio Grenada that Gairy made his appeals for recruits as police aides. He made many "Message to the Nation" broadcasts. On 6 August 1975, in a radio speech, Gairy said:

"God told me to lead Grenada and its people, and no man on earth nor groups of men could have kept Grenada from attaining independence or prevented me from carrying out my divine assignment."

Obviously Eric Matthew Gairy knew the influencing power of radio. WIBS, later to become Radio Grenada, was his outlet.

Reggie Clyne, editor, of The West Indian, reflected on Eric Matthew Gairy in a 1971 interview conducted by John A. Lent who summarizes:

" . . . Eric Gairy of Grenada is involved in nearly everything that takes place in his government, including the hiring and firing of secretaries, road-construction workers, and policemen."

Indeed.

Below are summaries of Gairy's interactions with the two media groups of his time - newspapers and radio

Gairy and Newspapers

In Grenada, for example, Eric Gairy threatened media right and left for what they said or wrote about him. There were certain pressures a government could exert upon publishers - high taxes, withholding government advertising, restricting or limiting information from the government news office, withholding government printing contracts, open threats, creating a climate of fear of placing advertisements in newspapers critical of the government, confiscation of printing mechanisms, attacks of disloyalty to the country, enactment of licenses with expensive fees, enacting high customs duties on newsprint, and disparaging newspapers, their publishers and journalists in public forums.

For example, according to Lent's interview with Arnold Michael Cruickshank, editor of the Vanguard, Cruickshank told him that in the "late 1960s, Grenada's registrar asked a black-power newsletter to post a $10,000 (EC) publication bond . . . The newsletter simply folded . . . The Registrar felt that the listed proprietors were 'strawmen.'"

For Grenadian newspapers, the "Vanguard" (established 1964) and the "Torchlight" (established 1955), the Gairy government banned government advertising and printing contracts. "Torchlight" said the Grenada Government placed restrictions on providing information via official government channels and banned Grenada Government advertisements. Government advertisements were not placed with the paper. Newspaper reporters could get no statements on issues from the Gairy government. It seems the newspaper could no longer report on public documents filed in the Registry of the Courts. "Torchlight" owners saw a reduction in government printing orders. The "Vanguard" was highly critical of the Gairy with the "Torchlight" often critical of government.

For the "West Indian" which managed to organize itself according to the 1975 Newspaper (Amendment) Act and survive, its editor Reggie Clyne remarked in a Lent interview that "Eric Gairy frequently mounts his political platform to 'lambaste us,' leaving the impression with people that the island newspapers do not count."

When Gairy beamed his intent towards Independence from Britain on to others, he was concerned about newspaper report. One part of Gairy's Duffus testimony gave this account:

"I knew that some of the reporters here were distorting pictures, stories of Grenada. An incident that occurred in Sauteurs was reported by a certain reporter here that the incident took place in the city, and the headline on the paper was something like 'Riot in the City.' The incident occurred 15 miles from the city. And I know that the whole idea was to paint a picture so that the British Government who had the last word would have prevented the Independence."

Laws

The Gairy Government saw that a couple of pertinent laws were passed relating to written material - a 1971 amendment to the 1951 Public Order Act and The 1975 Newspaper (Amendment) Act.

1971 Amendment to the Public Order Act of 1951

Under the 1971 Amendment to the Public Order Act of 1951 -

"a person is guilty of an offense if (a) he publishes or distributes written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, or (b) he uses in any public place or at any public meeting or proceeding, words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.

The punishment upon judgment of having committed the above crime/s was 12 months imprisonment or a fine not to exceed EC$2,500 maximum; or minimally, the imprisonment period was 6 months or a EC$1,000 fine."

Both the Vanguard and the Torchlight printed articles about this "Public Order (Amendment) Law During Emergency in their newspapers of 12 March 1971 and 17 March 1971, respectively.

1975 Newspaper (Amendment) Act

Under the [June] 1975 Newspaper (Amendment) Act that became law on 4 July 1975, it was illegal to print or publish any newspaper unless an annual payment of EC$500 was made for a license, as well as a bond of EC$960 and a cash deposit of EC$20,000.

Later in that same year, the House of Representatives passed the Newspaper (Amendment No. 2) Act 1975 to allow purchase of EC$20,000 in libel insurance ("a policy of insurance given by the Caribbean Publisher's and Broadcasters from any reputable Insurance Company acceptable to Government"), replacing a cash deposit.

The 1975 Newspaper (Amendment) Act also forbade the importation of progressive and/or socialist literature. The Act stated a definition of a newspaper:

"Newspaper includes every paper or pamphlet containing any public news intelligence or report of any occurrence or any remarks or observations there on or upon any political matter."

Below is a clause of the 1975 Newspaper (Amendment) Act which seemed to set another historical precedent:

"Where a Justice of the Peace is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting than an offence under the Act is being, has been, or is about to be committed on any premises, he may issue a warrant in writing authorizing any police officer to enter those premises, if necessary by force, at any time within 14 days from the time of the issue of the warrant and search them."

Torchlight

The "Torchlight" did not use releases from the Government Information Service (GIS). The editors had their own problems with the Gairy government. The "Torchlight" editors took took the matter to the public with a front page editorial in the July 18, 1976, issue concerning the Grenadian government's "absolute ban" on the paper. Hughes' Grenada column in "Caribbean Monthly Bulletin"of 1976 reported that the editor of the "Torchlight" complained about the Grenada Government's 'absolute ban' on the paper.

Vanguard

The "Vanguard," a vehicle for the Grenada National Party (GNP), had its own share of conflict with the Gairy government. It is obvious, because it was an opposition party, the Government Information Service (GIS) provided the paper with no information, even though the newspaper and its owners paid taxes.

People connected with the paper were threatened. People not connected to the paper, but wanting to get information to the paper, would not associate their name with the news they gave to the paper. Purchasers of the "Vanguard" took to hiding their purchase, if they could buy a copy or pick one up at the "Vanguard" office. The paper was disallowed in any government office, including the Grenada Public Library.

Some letters to the editor, according to its former editor A.M. Cruickshank, they would "take downstairs, rewrite it so he government boys cannot trace the handwriting. Then we burn the original copy and set the letter into type.' GNP party members sold the "Vanguard" and helped distribute it, as well as the editor himself.

Libel Suits

Gairy began a long tradition of political legal actions, some say intimidation, against newspapers for libel. A suit he won against the "Torchlight" was determined December 1978 with costs to Grenada Publishers Ltd. at $21,235.68. On 22 February 1979 Prime Minister Gairy filed a writ of execution against the "Torchlight" newspaper re: his action for libel. He threatened or instigated a libel suit against "Look Magazine" of New York City and certain London media

A. Michael Cruickshank, the Vanguard editor, told Lent in a 1971 interview about the four libel suits Gairy brought in the Vanguard between 1969-1971:

[The libel suits were meant to] "cripple us financially. He pursues his libel cases with the Vanguard to the end. In one case, we lost $12,000 (EC), but the public came up with the money for us. Party people and anti=government citizens donated money to pay for our libel case."

JEWEL

In its [Jewel] first issue [14 April 1972], The "Jewel" commented on Gairy's plans for independence.

" . . . another smoke screen, another diversion, another side stepping of our real problems --- national unity, upgrading essential services were essential pre-requisites for independence."

Lent comments that in 1976 -

"Parliament became the scene of vitriolic exchanges between Gairy and his NJM assailants, with the New JEWEL [newspaper] reprinting Bishop's accusations in full and urging its readers to attend the sessions as an audience to this political theater."

Vendors, even individuals selling the New Jewel papers, were arrested. One could be arrested for reading or purchasing the JEWEL.

On 18 July 1975 Kendrick Radix of the oppositionist party, the New Jewel Movement (NJM), was beaten into unconsciousness and shot on Granby Street while trying to photograph a confrontation between NJM newspaper vendors and police. Radix survived the ordeal. Nine NJM members were arrested and charged under the Act for distribution of the "JEWEL." The Gairy Defence Force set up blockades, searched vehicles, examined people on the street for concealed copies of "Jewel", as it was called in short-hand.

On 20 August 1976 Unison Whiteman, then one of the two Joint Co-ordinating Secretaries of the New Jewel Movement (NJM), was arrested for "distributing illegal newspapers", but never charged. Anthony Mitchell was also arrested at the same time for "obstructing the Police in the execution of their duties: in connection with the same incident. No charges had been brought against him either.

Maurice Bishop, leader of the NJM, stated in 1975 following enactment of the Act, according to Hughes, that "we intend to resist the law. We intend to continue to publish," while Prime Minister Gairy declared that "the law is sufficiently strong and Government can deal with anyone who defied it. We are not that much soft and can take care of any situation arising from the misbehaviours or misconduct of any citizen or any group of citizens."

Gairy and Radio

Caribbean communications expert John A. Lent reports that Windward Islands Broadcasting Service (WIBS) Grenada was under strict government control. Its Director reported directly to Premier Eric Gairy, representing his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP). Nothing reflecting opposition party matters could be broadcast on WIBS. Lent makes this observation following an interview with A.M. Cruickshank, editor, "Vanguard," St. George's, Grenada, May 12, 1971:

"In fact, broadcasting in Grenada was so unfair that during parliamentary debate, only the government arguments were aired, and opposition party advertisements and announcement were not permitted on radio. After considerable criticism, the government allowed the opposition party one half hour of time during legislative broadcasts."

Lent continues comment on the interview with Cruickshank:

"The "Vanguard" editor [Cruickshank] said all releases were 'ego-centered for Gairy,' and oftentimes were libelous and personal. The premier would choose and enemy and then attack him through releases read over WIBS."

Another Lent interview with Leslie Seon, once a close friend of Gairy, former WIBS Program Director and for Director of the Department of Information Services revealed -

"Prior censorship in particularly evident on Grenada, where all press releases must be signed by the premier or his cabinet secretary. Once signed, they are assured of being aired in their original format because the news editor of Grenada WIBS is not allowed 'to add or subtract, amend or correct in any way news items reaching that station from government information services.'"

Government Information Service (GIS)

During the period of the Gairy Government, the Government Information Service was large, amply staffed and was utilized primarily for the issuance of communications for government leader Eric Matthew Gairy. There were no press conferences. It was, as Lent pointed out, 'trying to rule by press release.'

Lent quotes an anonymous source as commenting:

"GIS in Grenada is more highly staffed and more active than similar services in other islands. That is why it seems that the government controls media content here. It does. The GIS tried to give a release on everything. Its rationale is that it is trying to supplement the poor newsgathering on Grenada. Other news sources are just about dried up here, so that the community now sends news tips directly to GIS. Of course, not every item sent to GIS will be heard. The government comes down hard on anyone who tries to hurt its image."

According to Lent:

"A man who has worked at both WIBS and GIS on Grenada is Leslie Seon, a frequent critic of Gairy. Seon said that while he was program director of WIBS, Gairy would bring in items for broadcast that were libelous. On a few occasions, Seon did not use the Gairy releases; for this action he was subsequently transferred to GIS, with 'an empty desk and no responsibility over the staff.' He was not fired, because his position on WIBS was paid for by the premiers of all four governments associated with WIBS. Thus, he sat out the remainder of his three-year contract doing virtually nothing in GIS."

An interesting cultural note is the banning, by Gairy, of recordings such as "Stand Up for Your Rights" by Bob Marley/Peter Tosh, and "Suffering in the Land" by Jimmy Cliff.

Appreciation and acknowledgement to John A. Lent's interviews with Grenadian editors and program directors found in "Third World Mass Media and Their Search for Modernity" and the Journalism Quarterly article "Mass Media in Grenada."


For additional and detailed information, please check out these links:

Newspapers - Overview
The Spark, 2 February 1975
The Spark, 2 March 1975
Torchlight and the PRG
Grenadian Voice and the PRG
Radio
Television

     Back: Mediagraphy

     Home Page: FAQs      Site Map

2003-2017 by Ann Elizabeth Wilder. All Rights Reserved.


          CONTACT