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MAY 22nd, 2004
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MAY 22

Media workers walked out on Minister
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Media workers in Grenada on Tuesday, walked out from the weekly Ministerial press conference to protest the threat issued to them last week by Director of the Government Information Service (GIS) Selwyn Noel.

The local media were harshly warned by Noel against reproducing an article from the Miami-based KYC News involving Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and German businessman Eric E Resteiner who was given a diplomatic post by the Grenadian Leader.

The ruling New National Party (NNP) government is denying anything was wrong with the relations it had with Resteiner whose diplomatic appointment was revoked two years ago. According to a release from the GIS, there was nothing improper about Dr. Mitchell accepting an all expenses paid overseas trip to Europe and the Middle East from Resteiner.

The KYC News spoke of an exchange of a large sum of money in a briefcase in Switzerland in connection with the German Fraudster. At least two media houses on the island were recipients of letters from the GIS Director warning them against publishing the article since they "will feel the full force of the law". The threat resulted media workers to call an emergency meeting of the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) over the weekend where a number of decisions were taken.

One of them, according to Vice President Michael Bascombe is to stage a walk-out by practitioners during the weekly Tuesday morning Ministerial briefing in which Tourism was the subject to be discussed by Minister Brenda Hood. Her presentation had to do with the inaugural meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Council of Tourism Ministers that was held in St. Kitts from May 5-7. She said the meeting examined a wide range of issues affecting the sub-region such as the composition of the Council of Tourism, the need for Joint Marketing Approaches as well as an OECS Tourism Policy Framework.

According to Hood, the meeting also looked at the Economic Contribution of the Yachting Sector to Member States, Air Access, the importance of Cruise Tourism, the OECS Secretariat's Tourism Work Programme and the establishment of a Partnership Arrangement. Following the conclusion of Minister's Hood's presentation, she then opened the floor up for questioning. It was this stage that journalists decided to pack up their equipment and walked out in protest against the threatening directive that was issued a week ago.

The move is reported to have taken the Tourism Minister by surprise and she looked on with eyes wide-opened as the journalists left the room one by one. Some media workers were heard saying how disappointed they were with the behaviour of media consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister, Josephine Walters who was heard singing a song: "The harder they come, the harder they fall", when she saw the turn out of media practitioners at the press conference.

According to 2nd Vice President of MWAG, Alpha Farray the local media will continue the protest action unless some form of compromise is reached with government on the threats that were issued. She said that although the media have a responsibility in what they are reporting it should not be dictated to by anyone in terms of what they should be reporting.

Senior Reporter at WEE-FM news, Linda Straker said she believes that the issue is not unique to one media house but the entire outfit on the island. She stressed that although two media houses were recipients of the "warning letters", the fact remains that if the issue is not dealt with then future governments will see it as the green light to issue more threats to the media.

Veteran journalists Leslie Pierre while not in support of the Noel letter described it as a "friendly warning" from government to desist from publishing something that was libelious of the Prime Minister. Pierre blamed Noel and not Dr. Mitchell as the one who would have chosen to send out the "directive" to the local media houses.

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