“[Joan] Rampersad’s ‘December’ section highlighted the relocation of Desperadoes Steel Orchestra, a film featuring the Mighty Sparrow, the trial of soca artistes Machel Montano and Kernal Roberts, and the QED, Lydians and Marionettes Christmas concerts. Not a single Indian cultural event was mentioned.”
The following Letter to the Editor, which charges that Indians do not get a fair shake in the local media, was submitted to Wired868 by anthropologist and author Dr Kumar Mahabir.
It was political scientist Dr Kirk Meighoo who first mentioned the concept of fake news in Trinidad and Tobago in relation to the marginalisation of Indian perspectives and culture in the traditional media. Meighoo was speaking of fake news at the launch of the new, free online newspaper www.icdn.today at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation Auditorium on 21 October, 2017.
Fake news is defined as a kind of propaganda journalism that is intended to mislead and deceive readers or viewers. The concept of fake news can be applied to the mainstream so-called “national” media in T&T because they do not fairly and proportionally report/reflect Indian views and culture in their coverage.
According to 2011 CSO census data, Indians constitute the largest ethnic group (35.4%) in T&T. Africans form the second largest (34.2%) group, Mixed Afros and Indos (Douglas) make up 8% each while Mixed persons comprise 15% of the population.
T&T, with a population of 1.3 million, has ten local television channels, 36 radio stations and three traditional daily newspapers (Guardian, Express and Newsday).
One illustration of fake news in Trinidad is the annual end-of-year review delivered by many radio and TV stations as well as newspapers. One example is Newsday’s 2017 year-end review of culture headlined “A year in culture,” published on 17 December and written by mixed-race journalist Joan Rampersad.
Rampersad’s two-page review was divided into the following sections: “December,” “Jazz,” “Film” and “Obituaries.” It is not surprising to note that not a single mention was made of an Indian cultural event, production or artiste.
Not surprising because almost all of the media houses are located in the capital city of Port-of-Spain where few Indians live. The editors of Newsday are Judy Raymond and Jones P Madeira, non-Indians. Even when the editors are Indians, they come from Central Trinidad and become creolised in urban Port-of-Spain. Some examples of those who fall into this urban Afro media culture are Omatie Lutchman-Lyder and Sunity Maharaj-Best of the Express.
Rampersad’s “December” section highlighted the relocation of Desperadoes Steel Orchestra, a film featuring the Mighty Sparrow, the trial of soca artistes Machel Montano and Kernal Roberts, and the QED, Lydians and Marionettes Christmas concerts. Not a single Indian cultural event was mentioned.
There was no reference at all to the literary evening of readings and discussions hosted by the NCIC Nagar on 3 December, 2017. Or the launch of the book Witty and Wise by Ariti Jankie in Chaguanas on 10 December. Or the Manipur women dancing drummers who had audiences spellbound in Fyzabad, Felicity and at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port-of-Spain from 7-12 December. Or the Shiv Shakti Dance Company’s Christmas Concert at the Nagar on 18 December.
In her “Obituaries” section, Rampersad highlighted the death of cultural figures Joyce Wong Sang (promoter of Best Village), Claudette Blackman (wife of soca pioneer Ras Shorty I), Derek Walcott (poet), Samuel “Brigo” Abraham (calypsonian), Anthony Voisin (guitarist), Julia Edwards (dancer), Devon Matthews (soca singer), Earl Crosby (music store owner), Deborah John (Express journalist), Neville Aming (Carnival pioneer), Edmond Hart (bandleader), Dianne Marshall-Holdip (Carnival adjudicator), Michael “Mano” Marcellin (musician), McDonald Ward (masquerader) and Peter Joseph (comedian).
Not a single Indian was referenced in a list of 15 cultural personalities. This is tantamount to blatant discrimination against Indian cultural artistes. There was no mention of the death of the legendary chutney singer Anand Yankaran on 2 January, renowned tabla drummer Dexter Raghunanan on 18 January or vocalist Nazimool Khan, brother of Ruby Gupter-Khan, on 20 August.
Rampersad’s review was enhanced by four colour photos showing eight named cultural figures: Grace Jones, Christian James, Michael Anthony, Devon Matthews, Etienne Charles, David Rudder, Lima Calbio and Michael Mooleedhar.
Despite his last name, filmmaker Mooleedhar appears Mixed. If he is an Indian, he hides his physiological identity under a cap covering his well-groomed, flowing dreadlocks. Mooleedhar has never been publicly photographed attending an Indian cultural event. From all appearances, therefore, there is again not a single Indian shown in the photos of eight cultural icons.
In his 2009 book entitled Is there Racial Prejudice in the Press in Trinidad and Tobago?, psychologist Courtney Boxill sketched the relationship between race and space in local newspapers. But it is Dr Raymond Ramcharitar in his 2005 book Breaking the News: Media & Culture in Trinidad, who added colour to Boxill’s sketches.
Using content analysis, Ramcharitar illustrated how the Afrocreole-controlled newspapers have consistently “blacked out” Indian events in their coverage. He provided compelling detail to prove that Indian culture has been treated by editors as “alien insertions” in the press.