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‘The media is not a public relations unit’ – Ms Eugenia ‘Nina’ O’Neal

- against censoring of the media in the VI; Julio S. Henry noted the frustration of reporters/journalist in accessing information in the VI
From left: Popular television talk show host Mr Julio ‘Sam’ Henry, certified Journalist Ms Eugenia ‘Nina’ O’Neal and Mr Cromwell Smith aka Edju En Ka were special guests of the Rotary Club of Tortola at its Luncheon Meeting on June 18, 2015. The guests spoke candidly but briefly on the role of the media and made it clear that they are against censoring of the media in the Virgin Islands. Photo: VINO
Some of the persons who attended the Rotary Club of Tortola's Luncheon Meeting on June 18, 2015 when a special discussion was held on the media in the Virgin Islands. Photo: VINO
Some of the persons who attended the Rotary Club of Tortola's Luncheon Meeting on June 18, 2015 when a special discussion was held on the media in the Virgin Islands. Photo: VINO
Eighth District Representative, Hon Marlon A. Penn (left) and First Lady, Lorna G. Smith OBE were some of the attendees at the Rotary Club of Tortola's Luncheon Meeting on June 18, 2015. Photo: VINO
Eighth District Representative, Hon Marlon A. Penn (left) and First Lady, Lorna G. Smith OBE were some of the attendees at the Rotary Club of Tortola's Luncheon Meeting on June 18, 2015. Photo: VINO
WICKHAM’S CAY II, Tortola, VI - It’s been a long and unending debate in the Virgin Island as to whether or not the media have a responsibility for the perception of the territory on the international scene. The truth was told, however, when popular television talk show host Mr Julio ‘Sam’ Henry and certified Journalist Ms Eugenia ‘Nina’ O’Neal set the record straight.

Mr Henry and Ms O’Neal formed part of a panel of three, the other being Mr Cromwell Smith aka Edju En Ka, to engage in a very candid, yet time limited, discourse with members of the Rotary Club of Tortola last Thursday, June 18, 2015 at the club’s Luncheon meeting where they were special guests.

Public Relations vs Journalism

In the words of Mr Henry, “Anybody telling a story should be conscious of the repercussions… but the media should report based on the facts and not cover it up. Because I think what you’ll find if we don’t be as honest as we possibly can others would look at what we are not saying and use that as a narrative. The media should be allowed to express what is happening and what is real.”

Supported and even more forcefully stating what the role of the media/journalism is, Ms O’Neal hit the nail on the head in separating the media from a public relations unit. “Sometimes persons mistake what is public relations and journalism, and they are two very separate things,” she said.

Public relations is a business of spin, making someone or something look good, “Journalism is not, journalism is the business of reporting the facts and letting the chips fall where they may. I think that perhaps in this country it’s fairly new to the whole concept of freedom of information, freedom of speech and so on, we might not understand the distinction between those two.”

“The media have a responsibility to report on both sides or on many sides as possible, that’s the responsibility of the media. It is not their responsibility to make anyone look good or look bad,” Ms O’Neal further added.

Against censoring of the media in the VI

There have often been verbal attacks on the media by certain members of Government over reports that are unfavourable to them, and talks of attempts to censor the media have been rife since the National Democratic Party (NDP) took office in 2011.

Ministers of Government have been particularly harsh on Virgin Islands News Online, which is known for its fearless and accurate reporting on hard issues affecting the Virgin Islands.

In January of 2014, during the Fourth Sitting of the Third Session of the Second House of Assembly (HOA), the government brought to the House the new Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act, 2013, which is being seen as an attempt to muzzle the press and put journalists in jail. The Virgin Islands’ Cyber Act has been condemned by the international community.

Mr Henry believes the media should be allowed to operate freely but responsibly.

“I think the media in the BVI, all the media in the BVI should be free, have a freedom of expression. The media should have a clear line of responsibility to report what is factual based on what is given to them, but it shouldn’t limit them to do investigations…”

“The role of the media, the media should be free to express, free to share the information as factual as it can be going forward,” Mr Henry stated.

Ms O’Neal made it abundantly clear that she, like Mr Henry, cannot support rules for the media, “The population has to understand that there are some sites that have a bias, there are some papers that have a bias,” she added.

Pro & anti-government media

Further, Ms O’Neal made reference to Antigua where there is a pro-government newspaper and one that’s anti-government. “By and large in the BVI journalists try to be as objective as possible. I think that perhaps with the partisanship of one in particular, one news house, I don’t think that should blight the others for us to think that we should create rules for journalists.”

But while Mr Henry agreed with Ms O’Neal that there is some bias in the media industry in the Virgin Islands, he believes one needs to objectively have a look at the reporting styles around the world. “We can sit and try to chastise the media in the BVI but the challenge is having access to information that is open and transparent. When the information is being with-held and it’s a story in the public interest and the media can’t get the full story they give you snippets,” Mr Henry rightfully said.

The frustration of freedom to information

“For the most part, with information that should be in the public’s interest, they have a way of getting that information, they get it,” he said of journalists in the wider world. “Here in the BVI, I am not in the media like a reporter, but I understand the frustration with the pro-government and the anti-government [media]. It may seem to some people that when it comes to information there always seem to be some stumbling block, something blocking. Why are we blocking?”

According to Mr Henry, one should not expect the media to curb any information. In fact, they should present it and let “the chips fall” where they may. “If we are open and transparent then we wouldn’t have anything to worry about.”

9 Responses to “‘The media is not a public relations unit’ – Ms Eugenia ‘Nina’ O’Neal”

  • egg face (22/06/2015, 09:33) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Well me bouy
  • just saying.. (22/06/2015, 11:29) Like (4) Dislike (8) Reply
    Dem need to close down the blue site
  • Uplifting Conver. (22/06/2015, 13:22) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    Wow--Nice, intelligent and informative discussion. Sad to say where ever there is money to be made by showing favors, favors will always be shown---We live in a high cost of living Zone---Sad to say, money run things.
  • Fair and fearless (22/06/2015, 13:33) Like (9) Dislike (2) Reply
    If you going to talk bad about my government you cannot be on my Radio station. If you are going to speak ill about my party you cannot be on my TV Station. How about that? Is that censorship? or protecting my business interest....----Vino is the best, Fair and fearless
  • weed (22/06/2015, 14:53) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    just hope some of them practice what they preach
  • jtv (22/06/2015, 15:07) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    Sam was cast aside during election...If i was he i would've never go back on there.
  • shaw (22/06/2015, 23:25) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
    you go Nina! You have a great mind. I wish you would run for election. If government is so worried about misinformation, why don't they support the freedom of information act which is not given freely. The media is a watch dog for the people they are serving and what the ministers should be serving. If they want "spin", get ahead of a story to take the wind out of the sails. Not cover everything up. Thank you media for giving me the information from which I will make up my own mind.
  • Yah! (22/06/2015, 23:48) Like (147) Dislike (0) Reply
    It appears to me that those who should have the most to say with the most to loose in this country have been made voiceless, while others suddenly seem to have a whole lot to say.


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