Written evidence from Trish Flanagan,
Broadcast Journalist and Solicitor, BBC World Service |
I request that the closure of the Caribbean service
be reversed as it will have a damaging impact on freedom of the
press in the region.
It is the only pan-Caribbean news service and is
relied upon by thousands of English speakers to provide impartial
news about the region.
It may be perceived that there is a developed media
in the Caribbean but from my experience of living and working
in Turks and Caicos this is not the case. I lived under the Misick
administration which completely quashed freedom of the press.
The one media people could rely on were the twice daily broadcasts
from the Caribbean service.
Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee will be well
aware of the Misick administration and the difficulties in getting
people to speak - one compared it to China. I was at the session
when Misick was questioned by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee
about allegations of corruption and sent the story to the local
newspaper - The Turks and Caicos Weekly News. I wasn't sure if
the editor would run it and I have to admire his bravery for doing
so. I had left the islands so I was in no danger but he was putting
himself at risk by reporting a story which the then TCI government
wished to conceal.
I know that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wishes
to promote good governance in its overseas territories and there
are four in the Caribbean region. BBC Caribbean is an essential
part of good governance - promoting an independent fourth estate.
I am a presenter and broadcast journalist with BBC
World Service News and Current Affairs.
I am also a qualified solicitor admitted to practise
in the Republic of Ireland, England and Wales and I worked as
an attorney in the Turks and Caicos Islands for four years from
I was an avid fan of the World Service - English
and Caribbean services - during my time in the TCI. This, coupled
with my observation of the importance of independent journalism
in a country like TCI was what brought me to journalism.
After doing a diploma in journalism I returned to
the islands for three months in 2007 and during that time I worked
as an attorney and also as a journalist for a local newspaper,
the Turks and Caicos Weekly News.
I joined the BBC World Service in 2008 and trained
as a journalist in the Bush House newsroom.
Last year was an exceptional year for the Caribbean
- They provided lifeline broadcasting in Creole
after the Haiti earthquake and won an Association of International
Broadcasting Award for this project.
- They gave in depth coverage of the arrest of
Dudus Coke in Jamaica and broke the story of the death of the
famous musician Arrow in Montserrat - huge stories in the region.
- They are a very streamlined and efficient team
run under the excellent stewardship of Debbie Ransome. I understand
that it costs around £500,000 a year to run the service -
savings that could be made in executive pay in Global News and
the wider BBC.
- The service covers the whole region including
countries like Cuba and Venezuela which do not enjoy freedom of
the press in the same way as the UK does. Many countries are too
small to prevent intimidation of the media - like Turks and Caicos.
Those in power always seek to suppress what they don't want the
public to know or put their own spin on information. Without the
Caribbean Service there is no one to challenge them.
I am happy to be called as a witness before the Committee
to make the case for the Caribbean service.
11 February 2011