Tuesday, 26 June 2012

RE-ASSEMBLING THE SHARDS


REMARKS BY WESLEY GIBBINGS, PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF CARIBBEAN MEDIAWORKERS AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 61ST WORLD CONGRESS OF THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS INSTITUTE, PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD – JUNE 24, 2012

I wish, on behalf of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers and its members who span the Caribbean community from Belize to Suriname to welcome Congress participants to the region and to Trinidad and Tobago.

Welcome to a special place at a special time in the history of mass media – a juncture which demands no less than the critical self-examination this year’s Congress is about to undertake. A challenge requiring a 360 degree vista anchored only by the core principles of our trade. An orbit rather than the trajectory of a temporal shooting star.

And why, one interviewer asked only days ago, this compulsion to re-examine, to diagnose, to review the terms of our engagement? Because, after all these years, the questions stand: What is journalism for? Why should its mission be free? What are the necessary conditions to ensure its continued role as a major contributor to the democratic process?

In this special place, the Caribbean, both the questions and the answers stare us squarely in the face. Our diversity brightens and enlightens our space, but often unfolds as shards and fragments of many pasts. One of the English-speaking Caribbean’s three Nobel Laureates, Derek Walcott, once said that “this gathering of broken pieces is the care and pain of the Antilles, and if the pieces are disparate, ill-fitting, they contain more pain than their original sculpture, those icons and sacred vessels taken for granted in their ancestral places.”

But “break a vase”, the poet says, “and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”

The task of modern journalism, in my view, is very much the re-assembling of shards – of bringing meaning to the confusion and conflict of a changing world. Were we to ignore so great a task, Aung San Suu Kyi reminded us only a few days ago, we would be guilty, albeit to a less violent degree, of recklessness, of improvidence with regard to our future and our humanity.

So great is our task, delegates to this IPI Congress. So great are the rewards.