by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The 11th biennial General Assembly of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) was held in Guyana on March 12, and president of the Media Association of St. Kitts and Nevis, Andre Huhie, was elected as a floor member for the 2023-2025 term.
St. Kitts and Nevis was represented at the General Assembly in Guyana by SKN Media Association’s 2nd Vice President, Jermin Abel.
The new executive of the ACM includes:
Mr. Harvey Panka of Suriname was uncontested for President.
Ms. Nazima Raghubir of Guyana was elected First Vice President (Finance).
Mr. Milton Walker of Jamaica was elected 2nd Vice President resident.
Mr. Denis Chabrol of Guyana was elected General Secretary.
Ms. Soyni Grey of Trinidad and Tobago was elected asst. General Secretary.
Ms. Myriam Malmin of Martinique and Andre Huie of St. Kitts and Nevis were elected floor members.
The ACM is the regional body representing media associations and media workers, and 22 individuals from 12 regional associations and focal point people attended the ACM’s 11th Biennial General Assembly, where country reports were tabled and discussed.
Two resolutions were tabled; one was referred to a Special Meeting of the ACM, while they passed the other to widen geographical representation for countries that do not have media associations or focal points.
Some issues for the new ACM executive are press freedom and professional development of the media and further enhancing ACM’s relationship with international freedom of expression organisations.
SKN Media Association 2nd Vice President, Jermin Abel, delivered the country report on behalf of the Association President, Andre Huhie. In conversation with WINN, Abel outlined some issues from the Federation’s perspective.
“The Media Industry in St. Kitts and Nevis, when compared to others, is relatively balanced, but we still encountered some challenges at least over the last two years, which would have been the time covering the last administration… They were asking us what is the level of Press Freedom in St. Kitts and Nevis, and that was on a scale of one to ten, and we indicated that it was seven in light of a number of issues we had. I know not a lot of people in the public would know of some of those issues that we, as media workers in St. Kitts and Nevis, face. We had issues such as government officials calling and having sponsors being withdrawn from media houses because they don’t like what is being reported. Then you have issues prior to last month where the Attorney General [Hon. Garth Wilkin] passed the updated Freedom of Information Legislation – that was one of the issues that we had.”
Other issues outlined included safety for media workers, access to government-level personnel for information, media workers practising freely without fear of threats or legal action, restrictive laws (Criminal Defamation), political pressures on media houses politically aligned), etc.
“We in St. Kitts and Nevis – the media realm and the thinking of media has not matured yet in the environment of St. Kitts and Nevis. So what more developed countries would get away with, or how they would do their news, we cannot do that because Criminal Defamation is still on the books, for example. So those were some of the challenges that were raised for us.”
Based on other country reports, Abel indicated that the negative economic impact of COVID-19 still affects media houses across the region.
“One thing that we’re being challenged by – as in all media associations did indicate – was the fact that COVID played a significant role in the state of the media at this point in time in St. Kitts and Nevis. Because you had a lot of media houses either downsized or they are still feeling the impacts of COVID at this point in time, three years into the pandemic, even though we would not have had a lot of impact like countries across the region. A lot of them either closed or they lost a majority of their staff. But for us in St. Kitts and Nevis, even though some media houses did cut, we still recognise that a lot of media houses, their newsrooms are very, very short-staffed. A lot of media managers do not want to hire more personnel because they don’t have the fiscal space in which to say they’re going to hire three, four, five, six, seven reporters.”
Abel noted that one of the biggest threats to the media industry in the region is the national economic environment.
With St. Kitts and Nevis securing a seat at the regional table, the Federation now has a voice and is a part of regional and international decisions and policy-making related to the media industry. St. Kitts and Nevis media workers now have a chance to share input on recommendations and solutions to the issues of media workers and assist in guiding the direction and evolution of the media industry in the Caribbean.
In addressing some of our local issues, the local media association will embark on efforts to meet with critical entities in St. Kitts and Nevis, especially in the public sector, to address another issue the local media association has highlighted.
“A lot of people in St. Kitts and Nevis, especially politicians, police officers and the like, do not understand the role of the media and the way in which people should be operating when it comes to media and sharing information. We, as the Media Association of St. Kitts and Nevis, we are actually going forward throughout this year – we have not set specific timelines – we are looking to meet with a number of people to engage them on the role and the importance and partnering with the media. One such is the Police Force. We’ve had time and time again since our resuscitation, we’ve seen a number of issues arising when it comes to the police, for example, sharing information. But then we also got word that when reporters or cameramen turn up on [the] scene, they have been harassed by police. Which should not be the case when you’re wearing an identifier – whether it be ZIZ, SKNVibes, WINNFM, FreedomFM – once you have on an ID, the Police should be able to interact with us.”
The SKN Media Association continues to applaud the local government for updating the Freedom of Information Legislation, which has been an issue for media workers in St. Kitts and Nevis for some time.
During this new two-year term, the ACM will continue working closely with the Media Institute of the Caribbean to provide training programmes and other opportunities for journalists across the Caribbean.