Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Wednesday, May 28, 2003  

Why is Yasin Abu Bakr still being allowed access to the local media?

The editorial in today's Express takes a radio talk show host to task for allowing Bakr, who called in to his programme yesterday, and two former members of Bakr's Jamaat al Muslimeen, who were in the studio, to engage in a violent on-air discussion and toss threats back and forth to mete out "Islamic" justice on one another.

What angers me is not just that the discussion was allowed to go the way it did, but that it happened in the first place. Yes, the constitution enshrines the freedom of thought and expression, but it does not guarantee right of access to all or any media to express one's views. As Earl Lovelace notes in his new book of essays (reviewed in the Express today by Kevin Baldeosingh - sorry, no link), Yasin Abu Bakr has no mandate to speak for this country's citizens, only the members of his organisation.

But more than that, the issue is one of simple common sense and human decency. Bakr and his followers attempted to overthrow the government of this nation. They held persons at gunpoint; they shot and killed a number of those persons. By the grace of our legal system (and an amnesty not worth the paper it was written on, an amnesty that never should have been signed) Bakr and his cohorts happen to be free men today. Why do the media continue to allow Bakr a forum to air his views?

And why do the people, implicitly or explicitly, condone the media in allowing him this forum? Is it our famously short memories, or the fact that, for most of us, the events of July and August 1990 were just images on the television screen, or - what I fear most - that we fail to understand the true gravity of the events of that time?

Do we need constant reminders from those who can never forget - the former hostages, those who were wounded, the families of those who were slain - of just how dark those times were?

I couldn't care less what so-called relief Bakr and the Muslimeen provide to the poor. Many other groups and individuals engage in the kind of work Bakr claims to do, without anywhere near the level of publicity that he obtains. And it is not only the media to blame, but also the government, for not doing enough to ensure that the "assistance" of a man like Bakr is rendered unnecessary. But the politicians, on both sides, shamefully continue to play cynical games with Bakr, and the nation, refusing to come clean about their dealings with the man.

I note the catch-22 in my focusing on Yasin Abu Bakr to say that we shouldn't be focusing on Yasin Abu Bakr. Hopefully, this will be the last time I write on this subject, at least in this context. If I ever write about it again, I hope it's in the past tense.

posted by Jonathan | 10:56 AM 0 comments


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