Warning over 'propaganda'
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
OPENING the debate on the Freedom of Information Act, Environment Minister Earl Deveaux said while the bill increases the democratic process, he cautioned against the common practice of using the media, in particular social media, to spread propaganda.
During his contribution in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr Deveaux singled out websites such as Bahamasuncensored and Bahamas Press, claiming that those and other similar sites lack journalistic decency.
He said: "The outright attempts at character and political assassination, which have come to be commonplace in our political discourse, are a danger to our way of life."
Mr Deveaux said his own personal experience illustrates the importance of nurturing a "culture of decency in journalism."
"I can cite many examples, but the efforts by some aspiring candidates seeking fame and their friends broadcast and social media who seek to destroy my character, hard earned reputation, and that of my wife stand out in my mind as individuals who will not use self imposed standards of ethics, decency or truth to deter them from gaining their political end or serving their paymasters.
"They will live to regret their behaviour," he said.
Mr Deveaux said the act seeks to reinforce and give further effect to the fundamental principles underlying the system of a Constitutional Democracy, including increasing governmental accountability, transparency and public participation in national decisions.
This is accomplished, he said by granting the public access to records held by public authorities, subject to various exemptions. Exemptions will be used to ensure public accountability while maintaining essential confidentiality in necessary or sensitive matters involving the government.
Mr Deveaux added that the act provides an opportunity for the general public to gain insight into how the government functions and how money is spent.
"This freedom of information law has the potential to dispel fears about secret deals, cronyism, personal favours, preferential contracts, and other perversions of the public interest for private gain," he said.
While urging journalists and civic leaders to use the Freedom of Information Act properly, Mr Deveaux said he also encourages civil servants and ministers to be open with the public, as they have a right to know what is being done on their behalf by their representatives.
March 20, 2012