Government attempts to nullify the press by rubbishing reports— not very impressive!
by Leo Olivero
The Press in Gibraltar like in any other democratic country represents a crucial link between Governments, the policy making elite and the general public. In my opinion the press and media perform a vital purpose considered to be fundamental to the proper working functions of a democratic process.
The press in fact has an institutional social responsibility to inform the public; locally the press serves the political system well by providing a wide range of information, stimulating discussions and debate on a huge number of public related issues.
Another important responsibility of the media is to protect the rights of the individual by keeping a keen and close eye on government and by making those in government accountable for their actions and of any inaction.
This week’s column reflects a growing concern, not just my own, but by other people who are critical in the manner that on occasions the press are sometimes rubbished by Government when certain newspaper stories are reported, particularly when reports do not appear to be of the Governments liking or differ from their own views.
This happened last week regarding a report carried by Panorama concerning the quality of work at three affordable home low-cost projects at Nelson’s View, Cumberland and Bay View. The Panorama report centered on information and personal observations passed on to this newspaper by individuals who have worked at these projects, Panorama also published photographs supporting these claims of bad workmanship.
The Government subsequently issued a statement that was sent to GBC rubbishing and making fun at the Panorama reports, this statement stated that the journalist in question was bored, this official statement than made reference to the summer being the ‘Silly Season’ or words to that affect, these comments from Convent Place also expressed confidence in the work at these developments, highlighting Governments experts were satisfied with the quality work that had been carried out.
One point I want to pick up on regarding the official statement to GBC is the one where Government experts are mentioned, and the point that these so called experts are satisfied with works at these developments. I wonder how many people will have been encouraged to have heard this part of the statement about the quality of the work, particularly coming from Government experts. I suspect these official experts are those who similarly advise Government on things like: Traffic Management, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Road Works Programming, Management of the Apes and Seagulls, works at Harbour Views Estate that have left defects in a far worse state than was the case before works started on this estate 4 years ago costing millions. These are some of experts who I think suffer from the ‘Silly Season Syndrome’ on a year round basis.
Gibraltar is littered with experts, everybody’s an expert, if you don’t believe me, go down to the Piazza or to the multitude of coffee shops, cafes and bars, there are experts crawling out of the floorboards on most subjects in life, believe me. No expert, no matter how many diplomas these people may have, can attempt to convince (on any issue) the public that things are perfectly OK, when in fact it is blatantly and glaringly clear that the situation is the complete opposite, personally the less we talk about experts the better.
The Government response to the Panorama report was frankly unimpressive; Government sometimes appears to think that the best cure for a problem is denying the problem exists, keep silent, or use an expert to front the issue, an example is the general management of low cost housing which has been a complete shambles. However this is not an indictment, not just on this Government but past Administrations. I’m sure many remember the Harbour Views fiasco.
Todays poor management has seen purchasors of Waterport Terraces being taken for a financial ride in paying out on accumulation of bridging loan fees, this is a fact and all down to bad management, poor programming and yes bad advice from those experts!
Government Press Office also feeling the Effect of ‘Silly Season’ Syndrome
The Governments statement regarding these housing projects is in my view unethical, unbecoming and somewhat conceited and certainly one that should not be emanating from an official Government Press Office. What ever happened to Official Press Relations, it all really is a bad bout of unprofessional short-sightedness.
In fact one could turn the tables round and accuse the Government and its press media approach to be also suffering from the same Silly Season syndrome it has accused Panorama of.
Government and the press in Gibraltar have for a long been a bit of a mix bag situation, I've long held the view that governments not just ours but in most places, like to control the press. The press obviously doesn’t like to be controlled, who does? Although some sections of the press and media are more susceptible and weaker than others when it comes to external manipulation and stealth like direction from outside influences, for whatever the reason, Gibraltar is no different!
The English poet John Milton said in one of his verses “that truth had a unique power of survival when allowed to assert itself freely and openly”
One of the best quotes for me comes from Thomas Jefferson, who was the third President of the United States Jefferson once said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter”
POLICE AUTHORITY’S SILENCE ON THE ANNUAL POLICING PLAN SAYS VERY LITTLE FOR PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY!
Over 3 weeks ago in this column I disclosed serious irregularities with the production of this year’s Annual Policing Plan. I drew attention to the fact that the current plan breaches important and serious sections of the Police Act, this is a piece of legislation that governs everything to do with the functions of the Gibraltar Police Authority (GPA) including the preparation of the yearly policing plan, which for those readers who have not followed this story is the important document that sets out Gibraltar’s Policing Priorities for the policing year.
One very significant aspect I highlighted regarding this years Policing Plan, a point which to me at least was glaringly apparent was the absence of any performance measuring targets with any clear objectives, under the Police Act Section 8 (2) the policing plan must set targets to support level objectives and priorities for the policing year, this is one of the main mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan and measure the performance of the police. If no targets are clearly set alongside the strategic aims (priorities) how will anyone evaluate the priorities or aims alongside the objectives, targets and ultimately performance.
It is unbelievable that the GPA or the Police have not made any comment on this important matter, which involves no less than the ‘Integrity of the Policing Plan itself ‘
If one considers that the Police Authority exists to ensure police accountability in this important public service to the community, is it not just as important that the Authority it self leads the way and sets its own ‘Public Confidence Building Example’ for all to note.
Under current legislation the GPA have an obligation to put right and provide the public information on the mechanism for enhancing accountability, setting targets in the plan is one of these important mechanisms. The absence of any targets in this year’s annual policing plan and the total silence on this issue from the GPA and Police certainly speaks volumes on any notion regarding accountability and transparency
I will say one thing; that I will not drop this issue until there is an official response from the GPA or the Police!