The Grenada Revolution Online

Torchlight
Knowledge Is Power

The "Torchlight" supported the ouster of Gairy and, at the time following the coup, gave conditional editorial support to the People's Revolutionary Government.

18 March 1979 issue - Reported that only three days after the coup, the Cuban ship Matanzas arrived in St. George's with a cargo of weapons and ammunition. Significantly, the article commented, the voyage from Cuba for a freighter similar to the Matanzas would normally require at least seven days."

21 March 1979 issue - Bishop in fear of a counter-coup. He told a Guyanese journalist that the danger could come from groups of the El Condor Cuba Counter Revolution type.

29 April 1979 issue - "More Than Socialist Rhetoric Is What We Need" - column header by Soothsayer who wrote -

"When the initial shock of Gairy's dethronement wears off there will be those who will cry out for information releases other than PRG releases."

9 May 1979 issue - "On the back page of the ARSON issue was a quote from the Anglican Dean, the Reverend Harold Crichlow:

"Unless free and fair elections were carried out in the near future, the Dean warned, another form of oppression even more dangerous to the freedom of the individual would occur."

18 May 1979 issue - A "Torchlight" reporter had his camera seized.

1 July 1979 issue - "Grenada's marijuana smokers are angry. And Grenadians tuned in to Radio Free Grenada late . . . must have found it hard to believe their ears when the Disk Jockey uttered words to this effect, as he touched on what he rightly called a controversial topic at home-no less than the question of marijuana smoking."

"The 'Brothers' the DJ revealed, are displeased over the recent raids on two homes in the St. Patricks area, which resulted in the seizure of a number of marijuana plants."

"Continuing to explain the present record of the local weed-man, the comrade-announcer pointed out that after all, it was marijuana smokers who took up arms on March 13 to fight for the Revolution, intimating that they are justified at being annoyed over what is in fact the first reported search for marijuana cultivations since the armed overthrow of the Gairy Government three and a half months ago."

" . . . reports of veiled threats by local herbsmen in the light of recent raids have been filtering into The Torchlight."

1 July 1979 issue - The Torchlight reprinted an early June. 1979, article from a West German mass-circulation magazine, "Die Bunte," that claimed that a naval base is being built in Grenada for Russian warships and that the island has had "mysterious visitors, Cubans and Russians." It also said that American reconnaissance planes have discovered that "in the interior of this island vast areas of forest have been cut down and these areas are interconnected by roads."

The article included an Editor's Note at the foot of the reproduced story. The editor said, "We know of Raimund Harmstorf's visits to the island and of the presence of a few Cubans, but, as far as the other claims made in the article go, the 'Torchlight' cannot substantiate."

15 July 1979 issue - "Reports reaching the 'Torchlight' indicate that three persons including an American woman [Mary Elizabeth Andrew] and the brother of a political detainee are presently under PRA arrest for reasons not yet understood."

22 July 1979 issue - Out of Bounds - "Residents of Calivigny & Westerhall areas are worried."

"So said a usually trustworthy source in a telephone conversation with our Reporter on Wednesday."

"The mood of the residents, according to the source, is attributed to the increased military activity in Petit Calivigny, a peninsular encompassing more than 300 acres of land on the SE coast of the island, adjacent to Calivigny Island."

"As reported, the area is being used to train soldiers of the People's Revolutionary Army and is out of bounds to the public."

"Our source stated it is his belief that the PRA intends to set up a military case there."

"But according to him, the fact that the zone is out of bounds, has not been gazetted, and this could have dangerous repercussions."

"Meanwhile it was learnt that PRA members have been paying visits to Calivigny Island from time to time."

"However, when contacted, Mr. Ken Milne, who is supposed to be the owner of the property, said he was uncertain as to what is going on on the island."

31 July 1979 - Acting Editor of the Torchlight, Nick Joseph, leaves his post to study journalism in the US. Newly appointed Acting Editor is Grenadian Mark Julien.

5 August 1979 issue - Editorial - THE PRICE OF TRUTH

"This newspaper has noted with concern the condemnation and threats which have come from official quarters about a story which appeared in our publication of July 22, and which we consider a legitimate news story."

"Our position as an independent newspaper serving a free society is well known. Indeed, we have incurred that wrath and vilification of the now deposed Government because of this commitment to truth. The positions we took then have since been fully justified by events and there are many in our society who tell us that the events of March 13 could never have occurred without the role played by this newspaper."

"We have made it clear from the outset that we support the People's Revolutionary Government. We continue to do so but this cannot be at all costs."

"Shortly after the PRG was installed our then editor sought guidelines from the Prime Minister and was assured that the press should continue to operate freely. Indeed the Prime Minister is on record as promising even greater freedom to the society."

"We have therefore taken him at his word while recognising that some measure of restraint is necessary in the peculiar circumstance in which the Country now finds itself. On one occasion in the past we were accused of an error of judgement and we apologized for it."

"This new indictment is however a horse of a different colour. We have sought guidelines in the absence of a constitution and they have not been given. We have carried a story which we believed to be valid and of legitimate news interest and we are now pilloried in the worst way."

"We must therefore point out to the Government that if they want us to operate within certain guidelines they must tell us what they are. In the a absence of such guidelines continued harassment of this newspaper could lead to conclusions which we are still not prepared to draw."

10 August 1979 issue - PEACE CORPS DEPORTED

"An American Peace Corps (sic), teaching at Boca Junior Secondary School was deported last Friday morning by Security Forces, according to a Government release."

The Release states that on three occasions the previous night the Peace Corps member 'disrupted a political meeting at Boca which was organised by the NJM.' The American citizen, as stated, continued to interfere with the smooth process of the meeting even though he was warned by the crowd present."

"The release stressed no Peace Corps volunteer is supposed to be involved in political activities, far less subversive activities, in countries where they are placed."

"It continued, it is reported that chemicals that can be use in the manufacture of bombs were stolen from the Boca Junior Secondary School a few weeks ago. This matter is still being investigated to discover the culprit."

3 October 1979 issue - "Rastas in Grenada intend to soon seek representation in the PRG. The Rastas feel they deserve such representation because they were 'frontline warriors and leading Freedom Fighters in the Revo' which toppled the Eric Gairy government on March 13."

"They are also claiming that they should have a voice in the shaping of Government policies, especially those relating to culture . . ."

3 October 1979 issue - Winston Whyte, Chair, Grenada People's Action Labour Movement [PALM] - 35 years old.

" . . . said he understood that the PRG announced at a public meeting that he was the leader of a 'subversive and destabilisation force' operating against the government.'

"Whyte said . . . his younger brother [Graves], an Agriculturalist, was picked up by the PRG six weeks ago and held in detention in jail without any charge preferred against him."

"'My brother, who has never been involved in politics, has not been allowed to communicate with anyone. None of his closest relatives, even, has been permitted to see him,' said Whyte."

"He estimated there were about 90 political detainees held in jail on circumstances many of them similar to his brothers."

10 October 1979 issue - RASTAS TO PROTEST

The "Torchlight" printed a strong graphic picture of the Rasta, drawn by Ras Daniel Hartman of Jamaica, on the front page of its newspaper, and below this picture said:

"Rastafarians in Grenada are likely soon to take to the streets in massive numbers to protest the debarment of Rasta children from schools and the arrests and charges for ganja smoking. This was told to Torchlight by JoJo, when they visited our office
yesterday . . ."

"The Rastas, according to these spokesmen, would like to know why the PRG is holding on to power for so long and what has become of the election promises. Local Rastamen have been holding weekly Nyabinghis over the past five weeks and it was at one of these gatherings at Gouayve Park last Saturday that they decided that the PRG was anti-Rasta."

The article continued later--- "'We are not supporters of Cuba and Russia, we see (these countries) as enemies of Rasta, since they do not acknowledge Rastafarian doctrine, The Twelve Tribes of Israel congratulate Torchlight for its brave stand in this time.'"

It was on 12 October 1979 that journalist Eslee Carberry was a passenger in a boat in St. George's harbor, taking usual trip with his latest 'Westindian Crusader' newspaper copy to St. Vincent and on to Barbados where the paper was printed. Although Carberry had written permission from Grenada's Special Branch and all was clear with the Immigration Officer, the boat was stopped by a member of the People's Revolutionary Army and a stevedore who claimed to be a security officer. One of the two said: 'Carberry cannot leave.' After a back and forth, eventually the boat continued its schedule with Carberry aboard.

13 October 1979 - In the absence of Bishop, Bernard Coard, as Acting Prime Minister, shut down the "Torchlight."

Following the "Torchlight" shutdown correspondent Alister Hughes interviewed D.M.B. Cromwell who said Austin was offended by the Rasta story. Cromwell told Austin the article was an interview, which quoted two Rastafarians and the article made that clear.

Cromwell, the "Torchlight" Managing Editor said:

"It is surprising to me that the Government has taken action against the Torchlight for opinions expressed by other persons."

20 October 1979 - After Bishop's speech concerning the "Torchlight" for the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC), Mr. Mervyn Assam, Second Vice President of the CAIC said

" . . . every Government has the apparatus and machinery to develop Government information programmes, to develop their own political propaganda machinery to counteract any of the distorted views that may be put out by a newspaper, and to use it as a countervailing power, as a forum within the society to debate issues and ideas."

20 October 1979 - The Grenada National Party (GNP) press release commented on the closure with the point that a greater wrong on a lesser one does not make it right.

Another point made referred to the legal entity of the ownership of the "Torchlight." The press release asked how the newspaper could be 'democratised' without acquiring it legally?

21 October 1979 - Roman Catholic Bishop Sydney Charles issued a pastoral letter on the Ban Imposed by the People's Revolutionary Government on the "Torchlight" Newspaper, to be read in all churches and chapels on that Sunday.

The Bishop [Charles] expressed

"total disagreement with the action taken by the People's Revolutionary Government . . . The silencing of any newspaper in a country is always a matter of grave concern, but, more so in our situation since the newspaper silenced in the only one without political affiliation . . ."

13 October 1979 - The "Torchlight" was shut down.

PRG/NJM

8 May 1979 - Into his second month as Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop made a national broadcast on Radio Free Grenada. The title of the speech "Organise to Fight Destabilisation," given on 8 May 1979, in one distinct section attacked The Torchight:

"A local newspaper, The Torchlight, has also jumped on the bandwagon by attempting to discredit the People's Revolution . . . carried a number of malicious and distorted articles, some of them potentially damaging to national security . . . carried a story repeating the libelous propaganda . . . contains classical CIA planted anti-communist propaganda . . . gives banner headlines and photograph treatment to the slanderous statements . . ."
The Torchlight Section of the speech "Organise to Fight Destabilisation"

28 July 1979 - Hudson Austin, Minister of National Security issued a press release about the "Torchlight" and other newspapers. In it Austin warned that, should any individual, group or newspaper publish "facts or speculations which reveal or attempt to reveal national security information, or which endangers national security," that publication "will result in the immediate detention of the individual or individuals responsible." Austin was referring to the article in the Torchlight issue of 22 July about Calivigny Island.

30 July 1979 - Maurice Bishop Broadcast on Radio Free Grenada - Bishop said that Government was "sick and fed up with the attitude of the 'Torchlight.'"

He talked about his warning to the "Torchlight" about photographing security personnel accompanying him. The article reprint from "Bunte" contained erroneous information.

"Torchlight was publishing," Bishop said, "a certain kind of information that, clearly, cannot or should not be published," and the Government's position is clear.

"We have given previous warnings," he said, "and we now repeat that there are certain things that are not allowed under the guise of freedom of the press. You are not allowed to repeat libelous material, as in the case of the West German article. You are not allowed to print matters of a security nature and our position is that, if any libelous matters of a criminal character are repeated again, we are going to have certain people in the 'Torchlight' arrested and charged indictably."

"So far as national security questions are concerned," the Prime Minister continued, "if there are any further repetitions where they attempt to disclose matters of a national security character, or to speculate on them, we are going to pick them up and we are going to have then detained."

On 14 August 1979, the Prime Minister gave a press conference where he spoke again about the Torchlight and the "Bunte" reprint. He said a decision will have to be made about a newspaper which will not print articles differing in opinion from the "Torchlight."

Bishop said "Torchlight" is attempting

"to add itself as one further vehicle of destabilisation against the process that the people are trying to build in Grenada."

Bishop continued:

"Our concern relates to ensuring that the Press does behave responsibly, does publish the views of people when they are sent in, regardless of whether those views are contrary to the Torchlight's opinion," he said, "and our concern, therefore, relates to minority control by one or two elements, more so by foreign elements, of the mass media in our country."

The 20 August 1979 issue of the "New Jewel" continues with the issue of press responsibility. It called on its readers to put the Torchlight "under heavy, heavy manners" and inferring a danger of destabilisation leading to potential overthrow of government.

"Jewel" referred again to the national security issue and the "Torchlight's" editorial aim to continue "to do just as it wishes in the interest of what it calls 'truth'."

The "New Jewel" article stated:

"This is the time to build our Revolution and our new society, not to break it down. Genuine and constructive criticism is one thing, but the freedom of the Press cannot mean freedom to tear down the Revolution that we have all struggled so hard to achieve."

"Beat Back Destabilisers: The Full Weight of the Revolution Will be Brought to Bear on Them" was a Radio Free Grenada National Broadcast on 18 September 1979, printed up in a 13-page pamphlet. In this speech, Prime Minister Maurice Bishop spoke about destabilsation of the People's Revolutionary Government by the local and regional press. The text of this speech is found at Beat Back Destabilisars.

19 September 1979 - Prime Minister Maurice Bishop holds a press conference and speaks about the "Torchlight". He says the Government is to take action against the "Torchlight" newspaper. Bishop outlined the governments press policy. He said -

"We do not accept the right of the Torchlight to reprint scurrilous maters from overseas."

13 October 1979 - While the Prime Minister was in New York addressing the United Nations, Hudson Austin announced the immediate closing of the Torchlight. "This is the straw that broke the camel's back," Austin said, referring to the Rasta article in the October 10 issue. Austin continued:

"In the interest of peace, order and national security, effective immediately, and until further notice, the 'Torchlight' newspaper shall cease publication."

16 October 1979 - Hudson Austin issued a further statement on the "Torchlight" closing, enumerating the reasons for the shut-down.

20 October 1979 - Two days after his return to Grenada, Prime Minister spoke about the "Torchlight" at the opening of the meeting of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC).

One of Bishop's points was an 'independent' and 'national' newspaper is responsible to support the government and print the opinions of the people.

If the newspaper disagrees with the programs or policies of the government, the newspaper can express its opinion in an editorial. Bishop said:

"If one man owns and controls the Torchlight newspaper, the paper should not be called the Torchlight. It should be called the 'Cromwellite,' and the individual who, in effect, owns and controls, that is his view. We would be happy with that."

He spoke against a newspaper being an investment, that is was too important not to "sell news." He said -

"We intend to democratise the ownership structure of the Torchlight," he said.

26 October 1979 - Maurice Bishop signs off on People's Law No. 81 of 1979 which limited ownership by one Grenadian to no more than 4% of the capital of a newspaper. This works out to 25 Grenadians [only] owning 4% shares each in the newspaper.

10-12 November 1979 - In Jamaica, during an address during the 4th Conference of the American Association of Jurists, Bishop made the speech Free Press and the Role of the Media.

14 March 1981, Bishop gave a press conference where he said:

"Our perspective on the question of the 'Torchlight' newspaper was a very definite one. The newspaper is not different from any other organ in the society. Anyone, any organ or institution that moves directly into counter-revolution or to inciting counter-revolutionary activity, we are not going to allow it to function."

Bishop told reporters that it was government's plan to publish a policy for all media, but first it would be submitted to the masses for discussion. The Prime Minister attributed "limited human resources" for the delay.

19 June 1981 - "Freedom of the Press and Imperialist Destablization." The Prime Minister spoke at a Queen's Park Rally, St. George's on Heroes' Day about the Rastafarians in relation to the Torchlight:

"We must never forget the role of the Torchlight with the Rastafarian brethren in our country, a newspaper that over the years consistently attacked the Rastas, called them all kinds of names, attacked Comrade Radix and myself whenever we went to court as lawyers to defend these brethren. Then remember what we saw in September (sic) '79, when the Torchlight opportunistically pretended to be a champion of the Rastas, to go around talking how the Rastas were being terrorized and brutalized by the PRG, how they were being killed in the hills and how the time has come for the Rastas to take a response against Babylon. If you could imagine: the Torchlight with that level of deceitfulness and hypocrisy taking that kind of position and playing that kind of role."

Bishop engages in a bit of tongue-in-cheek:

"Think of the Torchlight and the role that Torchlight played. It was always a good thing, it was always good news, it was always a free press to expose military camps then they were established, it was always a good thing. It was always excellent news to reprint garbage and rubbish from abroad like the article appearing in a West German magazine--the article which said that we had underground submarines in Grenada. That kind of article is in accordance with freedom of the press. But when the masses are meeting, when the masses are engaged in productive activity, that does not require a free press; that then becomes unimportant news for the class and the interest that they represent."

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

Newspapers - Overview
Gairy and Media
The Spark, 2 February 1975
The Spark, [March 1975]
Bishop Sydney Charles' Pastoral Letter on the Torchlight Ban
Grenadian Voice and the PRG/NJM
Radio
Television

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