Published On: Thu, Jan 11th, 2018

Emmanuel’s media war

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

Vromi-Minister Christophe Emmanuel is at war with the media, and with the Daily Herald in particular. I think it is time to stand up for our colleagues at Bush Road and take a closer look at the situation. The minister is making a lot of noise but I am convinced that this is an attempt to create a smokescreen.

Blaming the messenger is a very old game. Every journalist comes sooner or later in a situation where a source will deny a controversial quote attributed to him. A professional journalist has one solid weapon: his integrity. You do not build a career on misquoting people.
Emmanuel grumbles that “this is what you get when there is only one newspaper” – thereby happily ignoring the existence of stmaartennews.com. We may not print, but we are a serious news outlet bent on keeping politicians honest.

Let’s take a look first at the Emil Lee-saga, whereby the Herald reported that Minister Emmanuel had filed a criminal complaint against him. The quote, verbatim, comes from a Fernando Clark radio broadcast.

Did the Herald quote Emmanuel correctly? We don’t doubt it for a second, because you simply don’t make this stuff up. But Emmanuel has found an escape hatch. He suggested on Wednesday that there is no recording of the program. It’s like the minister wanted to say: you see? There is no proof – and I deny it.

The question is therefore who you want to believe: the journalist or the politician. I go for the first option, if only because politicians have more reasons to lie than journalists do. That does not mean I believe every word the Daily Herald writes. That has nothing to do with doubts about my colleagues’ professionalism; it has to do with my innate critical attitude.

Then there is the question of that barge from the Bahamas that was unceremoniously kicked out of the country over what the Herald correctly described in an editorial on December 22nd of last year as “technicalities and formalities”.

Minister Emmanuel made an attempt to discredit the editorial on Wednesday. He quoted from a letter from the Bahamian authorities that the barge in question had no certificates to operate outside of Bahamian waters.

You see? The minister seemed to imply. I was right. Nothing to do with me, I did the right thing. I followed the law.

In fact, Emmanuel’s statement and accompanying tirade against journalism did exactly the opposite. It proved that the Herald was right when it referred to technicalities and formalities.

After all, what was the situation? St. Maarten had been hit by a hurricane. Boats went down in droves in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Any help to get them out of the water should have been welcome.

I figure that a barge that is capable to sail from the Bahamas to St. Maarten, a barge that has the right equipment to do a desperately needed job, is also capable of lifting boats out of the water; with or without a certificate.

Nood breekt wet, is a good Dutch expression that Minister Emmanuel should have thought about. Who cares about certificates in a situation whereby tons of fuel are leaking into the Simpson Bay Lagoon? Who cares that formally that Bahamian barge was not supposed to be here?

Well, apparently the minister and his friends, who saw that there is a lot of money to be made from salvaging activities, cared. And so they threw formalities at that barge and made it go away.

Well, bravo, that was really a big help for our marine environment.

When politicians start raging Trump-style against the media, it is time to pay attention; even better, it’s time to take a stand.

I am not fooled by political rhetoric. I also do not always agree with what my colleagues write, but in both cases described in this opinion the Herald was right on the money.