Press and Parliament

Mauritius Times – 60

By Editor

For some time past the press which usually puts others in the news found itself in the centre of news. It was being mercilessly taken to task by some members of the Legislative Council. The main theme of the chorus of complaints against the press was the inaccurate and distorted press reports of the speeches delivered at the Legislature. It was even said that some sections of the press were behaving in as disgusting a manner as a “gutter press” would.

Mauritius’ Legislative Council in the 1960s. Pic – Vintage Mauritius

The reaction of the press to the sharp criticisms levelled at it has been prompt and direct. In council Mr Beejadhur took up the cudgels for the press and it should be conceded that he admirably defended the press as a whole. All this is at it should be and the Mauritian press is grateful to Mr Beejadhur.

Next to parliament the press is the most sacred institution of a civilised people. And if democracy is to survive and flourish any infringement of its freedom must be resisted and any attempt to tamper with its rights must be repudiated.

The press is like politics: it is what we make of it. That’s why we aver that a ‘bad’ press is preferable to a gagged press. Because a ‘bad’ press can be corrected or countered while a press which has lost its sense of freedom and militancy becomes atrophied and consequently useless.

It is a matter of great regret however that those who attacked the press did not care to specify which section or sections of the press they had in mind. Consequently, the unspecified and sweeping allegations have left the press uneasy. We believe that in order to avoid misunderstandings and perhaps to ameliorate the relations between press and parliament those who criticised the press ought to have been less sweeping. Moreover, it’s no use saying that this or that press is guilty of so many sins without at least substantiating the accusations.

The general accusation that certain sections of the press deliberately distort the views expressed by some members of the legislature seems exaggerated. What in fact happens is that some papers give wider publicity to news or views that are more to their liking or rather that actually suit the cause they have espoused. This is but natural with papers militating for some well-defined purpose.

It is common knowledge that most of our papers, especially the main dailies, give preferential treatment to speakers of their predilection. When a Labour member speaks for two hours in council you will read only half a column in the non-Labour paper, but if a conservative member speaks for thirty minutes you can certainly expect to read his speech almost in toto in next morning’s conservative paper. The Labour paper is not, however, immune from such practice. But for the good name of a great institution like the press, journalists should see to it that in their desire to further their cause they do not mislead their readers or misrepresent their opponents. And here lies the acid test of honest and straightforward journalism.

In order to reduce the possibilities of misrepresentation or misinterpretation of what is said in council we suggest that the Legislature should take steps to furnish journalists with authorised texts of its deliberations within a reasonable delay to enable them to inform their readers as quickly as possible.

* * *

Following the recent protest of the five newspapers, Action, Advance, Le Cerneen, Le Mauricien and Mauritius Times, against the statement of the Financial Secretary, His Excellency the Governor met the five Editors and discussed the matter with them. His Excellency explained that Mr Wilson did not in the least mean to attack the press. After a friendly and frank discussion, it was agreed that the matter was disposed of. His Excellency expressed his appreciation of the offer made by the press to co-operate with Government in all matters of public interest.

We are happy that the misunderstanding between Mr Wilson and the Press has been removed. But we cannot help pointing out that such misunderstanding are bound to crop up so long as the press is kept in the dark about vital aspects of government policy. We think that government should regularly inform the press of the problems of the country and what is intends doing to meet them. What about holding a regular monthly press conference?

Press and Parliament are the greatest pillars of democracy, and it is precisely because of this that both should be allowed to function freely and fully.

Misunderstanding or What?

Our Readers’ Forum column carries a letter signed by 13 trade-unionists requesting that the present Acting Labour Commissioner be appointed Labour Commissioner. The trade-unionists declare that they want to “appuyer la demande du Mauritius Times parue le 25 avril 1958 at intitulée: ‘Who will succeed the Labour Commissioner’.”

We have re-read the article referred to by the signatories of the letter and we fail to see how we ever asked that the Acting Labour Commissioner be appointed Labour Commissioner.
Is it misunderstanding or… misrepresentation?

5th Year – No 199
Friday 30th May, 1958

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 19 August 2022

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