What’s wrong with the media?

Points to Ponder

By Lex

A First Point: We all know that the written press and the private radio stations do exercise a certain influence on those who are not so strong-headed and those who are not inclined to analyse sufficiently independently certain events as narrated in some papers.

Are our media as responsible as we expect them to be, being given the stage at which our democratic set-up has reached? The clear answer is that they appear to be in the negative mostly.

We know that certain media houses recruit certain persons who espouse their cause and those media houses are not interested in giving the necessary training to those would-be journalists and instill the basics of professional ethics in them. These would be journalists who just follow the dictates of the editor in chief and those who are responsible for the media house.

These media houses have one agenda, and that is to try as much as possible to erode the core support that the people have for the government. They send confused signals as to what is really happening and this is where we see the full support that such media houses have for and give to the opposition.

The main concern that we have is that those media houses say that they are independent of all political parties. They and all their supporters keep on repeating that they are independent. No one believes them and it is no wonder that the parties that those media houses support do not win the general election. The reason for this is not far to look for. People know what is the agenda of those media as well as how far they can be trusted. One thing is clear however: the more they will write in favour of the MMM the easier it will be for the Labour Party-PMSD-MSM alliance to win the next general election. If such media houses were to come clean and just accept that they are against the Labour Party-PMSD-MSM government and for the MMM, they would be acceptable to everybody but they cannot pass off for what they are not. They judge themselves and they give a judgment in their favour.

The essential question that should be answered is this: do we have a free press in Mauritius? Ask any person who has the least common sense and obviously his answer would be that the written press and radios are entirely free to publish/broadcast whatever they feel like. However, they do go regularly beyond the limits and people criticize them for that. At times, people send their rejoinders to the media that have unjustly criticized them, at times people just criticize the papers among their friends and relatives and politicians criticize them in the course of a public meeting.

Why is it that the journalists cannot accept criticism like ordinary men? When it is they who criticize, they feel happy but when they become the butt of criticism, they become like a cur that has his tail between his hind legs and complain.

I do not understand why there has been such an outcry when Navin Ramgoolam raised his voice against unfair criticism towards him. I do accept that Paul Bérenger rushed to the defence of journalists because we sincerely believe that he could not let down those who worship the ground on which he walks. This is the least that Paul Bérenger could have done. Bravo Paul! You have proved what we have always known.

FPTP v/s Proportional Representation

A Second Point: For our political and electoral system, we depend on what is being done and what is happening in the United Kingdom. We have the parliamentary system with power to run the country vested in the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Great Britain does not have a written Constitution but we do have one; however, in both countries, an equal respect is shown to the respective Constitutions.

In Mauritius, there is an outcry for the amendment of the Constitution in order to modify the electoral system so that the first past the post (FPTP) system would give way to a hybrid system involving a dose of proportional representation with FPTP. I for one have always been opposed to Proportional Representation because we shall then be introducing a system whereby the majority may become the minority. This is not done openly but rather in a roundabout way, so that some people might be able to say that the system is good enough to have allowed to elect the minority to govern the country.

And herein will lie the problem. The country will become ungovernable, we shall have all sorts of coalitions, the more so as we shall be facing a general election every now and then. Proportional Representation will never give satisfaction to any group, even to those who are for the system in the long run. Ask the Rodriguans who understand politics what they really think of Proportional Representation which is part of the electoral law over there since the set-up of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly. Ask them whether they are satisfied with the system and you will get the answer. Do not ask the politicians on the island of Mauritius, they will not accept that Proportional Representation in Rodrigues has been an utter failure. Those who want to keep it as it is are motivated by their personal interests, I know what I am talking about. The sooner the PR system is scrapped, the better it will be for the Rodriguans.

I have several times asked our local politicians to tell me in which country the system that they are interested to introduce here has been a success, so that we can study the effects on the electoral system of that country. If there is no such country, then maybe all those politicians have in mind is to use our country as a “cobaye”, and this is something we can never accept.

The reason I am writing on this point is because of what has just happened in the United Kingdom. Many politicians wanted to bring some reform in their electoral system and the authorities over there conducted a referendum. The idea was to introduce a new system called the alternate vote, and those who are in the know say that this is the beginning of a Proportional Representation system. Many of the top politicians campaigned for the proposition but the people spoke.

They overwhelmingly voted to reject the proposition and all those who were in favour were surprised. 68 percent of the people rejected the proposition whereas only 32 percent voted for. As one person in the United kingdom has remarked:, the British public have decided that they want to keep their voting system for electing their Members of Parliament fair and simple. He added that the result has settled the debate at least for a generation. Most of the politicians agree that the people have spoken and they agree with the people. They are keeping their unadulterated FPTP system as it is. Good for them.

If our politicians of all hues think that they know better than the British, let them go ahead and bring their reform of our electoral system and I can guarantee that it will not be to the advantage of our electors and time will then tell the politicians that they should have known better. The First Past The Post with the best loser system is best for us.

Paul Bérenger and others may use a mellifluous language to try to convince that the system that they are proposing is in the interest of the people, but to me, all such proposals would have a dose of violent poison in them. “Be careful” – I should say.

Hindustani programmes: The “parent pauvre” of the MBC

A Third Point: Last week I was invited to a puja and several persons aged over 60 years started talking. They were very critical of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation and this got me interested in the subject matter. Last Sunday, I made it a point to watch the news both in Hindustani and in French. I was surprised, really surprised.

First, the contents. The news broadcast in Hindustani were to start with, very sketchy whereas those in French, they were full and very well developed. In Hindustani, one of the news items had already been broadcast on the eve in French. Do not talk about the length of time that it takes in each language to give us the news.

If the treatment that is meted out to news in Hindustani is the standard to go by, then it is no wonder that people are fed up with programmes in Hindustani, in Hindi and in Urdu. Are the MBC people allowed to treat such programmes as the “parent pauvre” of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation? We are getting fed up with this differential treatment.

Who is responsible for news in Hindustani at the MBC? If he/she cannot do a better job, it is time that he or she should move out. Can the person prevail on those responsible at the Corporation to switch the timing of the Hindustani news’ time with the timing of the French news? Can he also ask that the expenses incurred for the news in French should now go to the news in Hindustani and expenses incurred for Hindustani news should be used for the French news? What is good for one should be good for the other. And those who read the news in French get the facilities to look at us but those who read the Hindustani news so often do not have the same facility. Why? Do certain people think that those who prefer the news in French must get a preferential treatment?

Do not tell me that many people prefer to watch the news in French, but what kind of service do they give to those interested in the news in Hindustani? The law is there to be implemented, you know.

On the entertainment programmes some persons are satisfied but others find them awful, but, as they say, “Des goûts et des couleurs on ne discute pas”… however, I would say that the Zoom channel is just not worth having it on our TV. It is just disgusting. Why we do not have the Aastha Channel, the NDTV Channel, a Channel on religion and places of religious interest?

The people who are over 60 have said that they are not interested with the modern films that have no interest for them. They prefer the films of the fifties and the sixties. Would the MBC try to give them satisfaction?

I think there is much to be written about the performance of the MBC especially concerning the Hindustani programmes. I shall come back to this issue, but right now I will say that those who are responsible for the low level of the programmes in Hindustani should be asked to give others a chance to improve things.

* Published in print edition on 13 May 2011

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