Robinson-Regis: Despite Express’ ‘manipulative’ editorial, the only victims here are the people of T&T

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“[…] I, along with other right-thinking citizens refuse to accept your less-than-subtle attempts to manipulate public opinion. The Express is not the victim here. 

“The members of the public who may have been misled by their shoddy journalism and blatant disregard for the honesty and fairness are the true victims…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the stance of the Trinidad Express newspaper in the face of criticism for its Sinopharm vaccine experiment was submitted to Wired868 by Camille Robinson-Regis, who described herself as a concerned citizen, lady vice-chairman of the National Women’s League, member of Parliament for Arouca/Maloney, and leader of the House:

Photo: PNM National Women’s League chair and Arouca/Maloney MP Camille Robinson-Regis.

Once again, the editors at the Express have missed the Prime Minister’s point. 

The Express newspapers’ editorial (21 December 2021) cements my belief that there is a persistent, well-coordinated agenda against the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley. Whether the newspaper is being deliberate or not currently remains debatable. 

The Express focused on the Prime Minister’s statements following their failed ‘research study’ whilst at the same time offering no remorse. 

When slammed by a host of medical professionals both in academia and field researchers, the Express maintained a deafening silence. When called upon by the Chinese Embassy to correct their ‘crude and amateurish’ study ‘with only four samples, and thus completely a farce’, the Express maintained a deafening silence.

The Prime Minister, like many others, raised concerns over the unsubstantiated, meritless article peddled on the newspaper’s front page last Sunday (19 December 2021). 

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(via Office of the Prime Minister)

I wondered briefly if the editors believed that attacking the Prime Minister would drive away the public indignation that their irresponsible journalism has triggered? PAHO, the Embassy of China, St Augustine Medical Laboratory (SAML) and several well-reputed doctors all reported that the article was reckless in every sense, with the SAML distancing itself from the report. 

Yet, the Express has not taken responsibility and instead continues to bloviate daily on this issue, undermining attempts to have the population vaccinated. Neatly tucked away in the said editorial, the Express states: ‘We accept the controversial report required much more from us and should have been subject to greater rigour’.

Instead of addressing their shortcomings and apologising in the follow-up articles, we were given this trite ‘by the way’ response. It is clear to me that the Express by this statement has admitted what they presented to the public as fact on Sunday (19 December 2021) was baseless, lacking scientific evidential value, highly irresponsible and grossly unethical.

In this instance, the article went beyond the usual attacks against personalities and was geared towards instilling fear. 

Photo: A nurse holds up vials of the Covid-19 Sinopharm Beijing vaccine.

We recall earlier this year when radio personality Jamie Thomas died. In its issue dated 4 May 2021, the Express published an article claiming the deceased radio star took the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This was strongly disputed by relatives in an interview on i95.5FM on 5 May 2021.

In that interview, the relative said, ‘Jamie Thomas did not take any vaccine…I think its kind of irresponsible, I think in the midst of everything that is happening, I think it’s irresponsible to now put stuff out there like this. That kind of fearmongering.’ 

The Express issued an apology, simply saying the misinformation was regretted. How can one forget the editorial dated 17 April 2021, following the passing of my beloved and respected colleague Franklin Khan? 

The contents of the editorial state, ‘It was inevitable that Senator Khan’s unexpected death at a relatively young age 63 would also stir anxiety among the wider population due to the fact that he had received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday.’

These attempts at forming correlations between the vaccine and coming to unverified conclusions can only have certain intent and outcome: fuelling vaccine hesitancy and brand preference—two main threats that undermine the national immunisation drive.

Photo: A volunteer receives the Covid-19 vaccine.
(Copyright Siphiwe Sibeko/Pool via AP)

Under these circumstances, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and medical professionals have often had to debunk theories given to the general public by the Express. 

This ‘experiment’ conducted by the Express is just the latest in a series of maliciously erroneous articles that serve no other purpose but to instill doubt and fear in the midst of a pandemic. Hence it was in poor taste, reckless, sensational and irresponsible.

The Prime Minister believes in freedom of the press and freedom of speech. It is his responsibility to denounce dangerous, unsubstantiated statements, especially the type which could stymie the entire vaccination process. 

I understand the media can and very often do set their own agendas. I also firmly believe that an unbiased and objective media is crucial in a democratic society. Yet the peculiar slant of the editorial and various articles has given cause for serious concerns.

If the Express has any shred of credibility, then the public needs assurance that they are objectively seeking the truth and acting to guard the public’s best interest. 

Photo: Trinidad Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder.

Additionally, I observed there was much ado about the Prime Minister’s question ‘Who will be fired here?’ 

I would like to remind the Express that they are not immune to calls for greater responsibility and accountability. Especially when media represent a vital, independent and powerful position of gatekeeper. 

As in several cases, the gate was breached, I, along with other right-thinking citizens, refuse to accept your less-than-subtle attempts to manipulate public opinion. The Express is not the victim here.

The members of the public who may have been misled by their shoddy journalism and blatant disregard for the honesty and fairness are the true victims. Our overworked first responders who continue shouldering the burden of an already overloaded system are also victims.

What the Express presented to the public in their article on Sunday (19 December 2021) was not ‘integrity and fearless journalism’, but it was a malevolent news article bent on creating doubt, instilling fear and undermining the work of the Ministry of Health. 

Photo: Nurse Keisha Gomes-Prevatt (left) was first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
At her side is Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.
(via TTT online)

Let me be clear: Covid-19 is an insidious enemy. This is a war where, based on several global scientific studies, vaccination is the best weapon. 

We need all hands on deck and the Express Editor, whoever she or he may be, needs to be held accountable.

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  1. The people who still buy the Express deserve better and should demand better. I’m not among these people, thankfully.

    “the public needs assurance that they are objectively seeking the truth and acting to guard the public’s best interest.”

  2. Normal jammetry. She account yet for the money deposited in her account?

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