By Darren Joseph
September 13, 2009
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog
A white South African was granted refugee status in Canada, on the ground of “racism.” He claimed that he was attacked six or seven times because of his skin colour. Needless to say, this caused much controversy in South Africa. Prime Minister Harper of Canada asked the Federal Court to review this ruling that so threatened Canada-South Africa relations.
A headline in the on-line Calgary Herald newspaper stated that, “White South African fled crime, not racism.” I suspect that the ruling will be overturned. Maybe it would be by the time this is published. Crime in South Africa appears to be a big problem. Wikipedia quotes a survey done by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, that ranked South Africa second for assault and murder per capita. South Africa was also ranked first for rapes per capita in the countries surveyed.
I clicked through the stats on www.nationmaster.com, and it makes for pretty gruesome reading. South Africa is also ranked as second for kidnappings, and third for robberies per capita. Despite this, tourism in South Africa, while suffering under the global downturn, is still doing relatively well. Their January to May, 2009, numbers show their visitors being up 0.8 per cent to just over four million.
They have been on an upward trend since 1999. Closer to home, there is Jamaica. In June this year, Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett noted in Parliament: “In the first four months of this year, though most of the Caribbean is continuing to have difficulties, of the countries submitting reports to date, Jamaica is one of only three to have recorded growth.”
So despite the economic downturn in source markets, Jamaica is still showing growth, while other heavy hitters in the English-speaking Caribbean, like Barbados, Antigua and St Lucia, are registering declining visitor numbers.
A couple weeks ago, the Convention Bureau of our Tourism Development Co Ltd (TDC) hosted a conference on business Tourism. It was hosted by Rick Taylor, CEO of the Business Tourism Company. Rick is South African and a business tourism guru of sorts. One point that he made was that there is a tacit agreement by the South African press, to minimise gory newspaper headlines. The press understood that they were not just affecting the local psyche and economy, but also damaging the image of their country overseas. When I heard that point, it really got me thinking. So I reflected on Jamaica. Using Google alerts, I get newspaper headlines on and from Jamaica daily.
It is only on the rare occasion do I see crime or a gory accident grabbing the headlines. Chris James, from the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, not just agreed with Rick Taylor, but used the recent incident in Tobago to illustrate the point. After one of our local newspapers carried the unfortunate attack as a front page story in their online edition, the exact image and text extracts, appeared in about 40 UK newspapers over the next few days. Of course, there is the other side of the fence: those who abhor any form of censorship at all, whether it is self-imposed or imposed by any external entity.
As my friend Oke notes: “We need to continue to fight for and protect the freedom of the press at all cost… When all else fails, the media is the final defender of our democracy.” At the end of the day, many would argue that it is the duty of the media to show society its own reflection. This argument sometimes goes on to say that the focus should not be on the media outlets and what they publish. They declare that the media should not be used as a scapegoat. After all, they are just doing their job. Rather, the focus should be on those of us who break the law. This includes those of us who break the law in minor or major ways—from taking a chance on the bus route, driving recklessly, to the hard core criminals.
This is an exceptionally sensitive area. That much is clear. But it is something that is worthy of continued debate.One thing we all have in common is our love for these beautiful islands and a sincere desire for them to do even better. Encouraging growth in tourism and foreign investment is key to our Vision 2020 objectives.
I have faith that we will find a way.
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