Government Embargo against Channel 5 to be lifted

Both this station and government have agreed on a way forward to resolve a two week impasse. On December seventh, the government imposed a ban preventing ministers and more than twelve thousand government employees from giving interviews to this station. On the local scene, it was met with disapproval by many quarters including the political parties, non-governmental organizations and ordinary Belizeans. The censorship was also opposed by the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and international groups such as the Committee for the Protection of Journalists and The Heritage Foundation. But Channel Five and the government each held their positions until today when Channel Five’s CEO, Amalia Mai and Prime Minister Dean Barrow sat down and discussed a way out. The discussions were frank and cordial and a number of issues were cleared up. Following the discussions, the Prime Minister said he will recommend that normal relations be resumed with this media house.

Dean Barrow

“It was a very useful, very constructive, very cordial meeting. I have agreed on the basis of the discussion we had and on the basis of the CEO Mai’s assurances to me. I have undertaken to, at the first cabinet meeting in the New Year, which takes place on the Tuesday of the first working week, ask cabinet to agree to the resumption of normal relations with Channel Five. I will take the position at that meeting that this should be done. I only don’t say that we can do it immediately because I do have to get the support of cabinet. But you will see from what I’ve said that it was a very, very constructive meeting indeed.”

Jose Sanchez

“Regarding the government program, will it be aired on Channel Five?”

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“Which government program?”

Jose Sanchez

“The weekly program was mentioned in the previous release?”

Dean Barrow

“Yes, indeed. The CEO has made it clear that that is not a problem.”

Jose Sanchez

“Was there anything that was proven to be wrong within the previous relations?

Dean Barrow

“Well, Miss Mai is, as you know, a very accomplished diplomat and Miss Mai would not in a normal course concede any fault. And I don’t think we want to belabor that particular issue. Let us just say that while we also insisted that we thought, or we saw fault, we have agreed to move on. And there is a commitment on both sides to operate on a basis of mutual respect and on the basis of fair and balance coverage on the part of Channel Five which is indicating that it is not going to do anything to compromise its position that it is a professional operation, a professional outfit that will be guided by a commitment to the canons of the journalism profession. So, I am happy with that and as I said, I am perfect to recommend to cabinet, that we resume normal relations.”

Jose Sanchez

“When resumed, should we maybe see more of you perhaps even on the Five Morning Show?”

Dean Barrow

“Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. Clearly as we go along, I’m sure Miss Mai will be looking to see that I keep my word and I will be looking to see that she keeps her word. But I feel that we’ve both spoken and acted in good faith at this meeting. So, nothing is ever completely trouble free, nothing is ever without differences of opinions; nothing is ever without different points. But I believe that we will move forward ultimately on this basis of mutual respect.”

All the told, the PM gave his assurances that he will get the support of Cabinet to lift the suspension on this station. We’ll have his take on the freedom of the Press in Friday’s newscast.

Channel 5