DeLisle Worrell, the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, recently took a controversial decision to not invite The Nation newspaper to any events at the state institution. The move was in reaction to a report in the island's leading daily that the Central Bank had decided to lay off staff.
Unsurprisingly, the ban was initially reported in the Barbados Nation, in a story which quoted the Central Bank Governor:
Consequent upon the lack of professional integrity manifest in the Nation’s Front Page headline of Thursday, May 8, you should be aware that Nation/Sun staff will not be invited to any future Press conference or media event hosted by myself as Governor of the Central Bank.
Wesley Gibbings, head of the Association of Caribbean Mediaworkers (ACM) questioned the basis upon which Governor Worrell made this decision:
— Wesley Gibbings (@wgibbings) May 11, 2014
The blog Barbados Free Press was also very critical of this decision:
Central Bank Governor, Dr. DeLisle Worrell, took issue with a story about the central bank as published in The Nation. So does he ask the paper for space to present his thoughts to the citizens? Does he demand an apology, retraction or correction? Does he write an article to be published in the media or on the bank’s website?
Nope… he bans Nation journalists from all bank events.
A few days later, the Central Bank released a statement affirming its commitment to a free press and insisting that The Nation had not been banned:
The Central Bank of Barbados respects and embraces freedom of the press and the importance of the dissemination of timely and accurate information and as such has not banned the Nation Corporation.
The front page of the Sunday Sun of May 11, 2014, carried the headline ‘Cut Off'. The Bank assures media practitioners in Barbados as well as the public at large that it will continue to keep all media houses fully abreast of all developments on economic and other pertinent matters which fall under its purview, including the Nation Publishing Company, as is normal.
The Nation Publishing Company will receive all Press Releases and other communications issued by the Central Bank, and all media houses and the general public have free access to the Central Bank’s website, where all our statements, reports, data and speeches, and all other publications are posted…
At Bajan Reporter, Ian Bourne was not sure about the implications of this release:
There is no indication in this formal statement if Nation Publishing will be privy to any future events held by CBB. The threats against Barbadian Journalism have only just started; [they] will get more strenuous as the DLP [the Democratic Labour Party, currently in power] try to hold on for a third term and all of their beneficiaries seek to rally defenses against real or imagined threats.
Barbados Free Press was still sceptical of the Central Bank's position…
Unless and until Governor Worrell and the Central Bank invite Nation journalists to media events and answer questions from Nation journalists[...]the Central Bank have declared themselves to be enemies of democracy, transparency and accountability.
…while Barbados Underground criticized the statement from the Central Bank Governor:
One is forced to ask who is running the institution. Why issue a press release to state the obvious? Banning the Nation’s reporters at press conferences OBVIOUSLY prevents that media house from probing the Governor et al as they desire, a tenet of practicing freedom of the press.
BU sides with head of the private sector who commented today that the Central Bank appears to be trying to kill an ant with a hammer (our words). It boggles the mind if the Governor felt so strongly on a matter he could not see the light to issue a warning letter. In any event what we are witnessing on both sides is mediocrity at its best.
In a follow up post, Barbados Underground argued that the issue is symptomatic of a larger problem:
The tantrum thrown by the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. DeLisle Worrell, is just more clear evidence that the DLP and its political appointees are not serving Barbados. The unbelievable sideshow of issuing a haughty ban on a media house is a distraction from the much more serious issues of Worrell’s unfitness to hold the position he occupies.