Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bahamas: Fred Mitchell, opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) spokesman on foreign affairs questions the 'ethical standards' of The Nassau Guardian newspaper over Wikileaks reports on Bahamian political affairs

MP questions 'ethical standards' of newspaper over Wikileaks reports

Nassau, Bahamas

FRED Mitchell, opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, questioned the "ethical standards" of The Nassau Guardian in its reporting of confidential US embassy cables on Bahamian political affairs.

During his presentation in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr Mitchell said a Guardian reporter failed to declare her personal interests with respect to one of the subjects of the Wikileaks investigation. Mr Mitchell featured prominently this week in a Wikileak disclosure.

"I always envied my colleague the Member for North Andros that former lady friend of his who shall remain nameless who works at the Guardian and wrote that whole section about me this morning. As the song writer says: 'That Gal look good!' said Mr Mitchell.

"My only point is that journalism, the kind that the Nassau Guardian, The Tribune and the Bahama Journal are to practice carries with it certain ethical standards and it is unethical to write a story about one subject of which you had a close personal relationship as if you are a disinterested party. It can be seen as malicious. But neither she nor her employers seem to get the point," said Mr Mitchell.

He said ethical standards were important because the public relies on the media to "tell the Bahamian story; to tell it accurately, and without fear or favour."

Mr Mitchell said it "may be necessary" for the Embassy to disassociate itself from the attributed statements in the Wikileaks cables, so "they are not taken as an official view of events."

"It strains credibility to me that US professional diplomats, a person so high as a deputy chief of mission who was actually sitting in the seat of the ambassador, would accept and adopt uncritically propaganda lines from the Free National Movement. That is simply not a professional report," he said.

There is both "fascination and revulsion" at the disclosures, said Mr Mitchell. Revulsion that public officials "would be so open and callous" with information they share with "American diplomats." Mr Mitchell said Bahamians questioning whether Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham would "so loosely and callously spill all his guts to junior US officials."

"I can tell you also in connection with the public service, that the police commissioner was reeling yesterday. Again, that someone who this country trusted for our national security, a former Commissioner of Police could be quoted as spilling his guts out to junior U.S. officials. Again I say allegedly. We have to hope it is allegedly because no self-respecting Commissioner of Police would do any such thing. Perhaps we will see if the former Commissioner Mr. Ferguson will sue because most certainly he could not have sold his country out like that," said Mr Mitchell.

Putting the disclosures in perspective, Mr Mitchell said the country should understand the role of "public diplomacy and private diplomacy" in international affairs, said Mr Mitchell.

"There are many private ruminations and events which we know about US diplomats and their private activities in this country. But how would that serve the Bahamian interests for me to expose that. And that is what I admire about American diplomacy and about that country as a nation, it always pursues its interests," he said.

Describing his interaction with embassy officials during his tenure in government, Mr Mitchel said of the Wikileaks disclosures, "They are saying that I stood up for my country. I put Bahamians first."

He described a message sent by one of his former colleagues: "When I read the two page story about 'What the Americans Really Thought' of you in the Guardian, my chest swelled with pride, for the intended exposé turned out to be a public testimony to your diplomacy, tact and wisdom and to the fact that (unlike others of your colleagues) you are not in the least bit intimidated or in awe of any 'superpower'.

"The worst that could be said of you was that you are a Bahamian and a Black nationalist, whom they often times found to be aloof, close-mouthed and uncommunicative. If only that could have been said of Samson."

June 01, 2011