“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people” — Frantz Fanon
I think about liberation as an ideology, as a principle, as a premise. I am learning, as I am sure we all are, that liberation in the current order of the world is seemingly a constant pursuit and negotiation. I look at this liberation as one that happens internally with mind and spirit and then manifests itself outwardly in the way that we interact within the systems in which we were born. The unboxed and unorthodox education is the vehicle that we use to achieve this liberation. We are educated at every juncture, like Google that learns and adapts to our social media preferences and purchases. Nature is the blueprint for all that we are and know.
When I think about liberation, I also think about communication. This thirteen-letter word has kept this race alive, but has also been our Achilles heel. In the context of governance and freedom of information, I have recognized some micro-aggressions that will no doubt become democratic assaults in due time. On April 27, 2020, the Government of Belize’s Press Office informed the media fraternity that they would not be allowed into the National Assembly because of social distancing regulations, neither were their inanimate cameras. They were told that they would be receiving a livestream link originating from the Press Office only. 7News’ Jules Vasquez, at that time, called it “complete fascism.” He expanded his description by calling it a “fascist farce, opaque transparency where the [Government] is using the pandemic as an excuse to insulate themselves from the difficult questions of the media.”
Fast forward to 2021: the political party that administrates the government has since changed and is conducting what I deem as a necessary inquiry into the spending and asset management habits of the previous administration. Even with a proposed different political ideology, the practice of communication and information management seemingly remains a stalwart fixture. The Government of Belize is at loggerheads with the unions in Belize, specifically those that are public servants, employed by GOB. The 10% cut in the wage bill has been the bitter pill prescribed by the Briceño administration and, well, public servants just are not taking it lying down. I say that because it provides the context for what I will say next. Stay with me. On April 15, 2021, the public hearing of the Commission of Inquiry was set to continue with 10 witnesses, including past government ministers, but that was quickly rescheduled — no fault of the summoned witnesses, but rather because the president of the Public Service Union, Luke Martinez, utilized his mandatory presence as a Commissioner of the ad hoc hearing as a soundboard and bargaining chip to express his union’s discontent with the new administration. That’s not the story here. The story is that, mid-address, the feed was cut, allegedly by the Government Press Office, and then deleted from every platform of the Press Office — the latter of which indicated to me that the cut was intentional rather than accidental.
Are you seeing the pattern? The practices are minute, and done by different hands, but are giving me the same energy. I’m not sure who sets the precedence for how the media is to operate in Belize. Freedom House says that Belize has a “free and open media system, although laws allow for some government control… Belize Broadcasting Authority also has the right to prior restraint of all broadcasts for national security reasons or reasons of national emergency.” Those emergencies are at the discretion of the minister, I’m sure. We recently passed legislation meant to curb cyberbullying, which is necessary for the age of social media that allows everyone to be a reporter, even on things that do not concern them. Of course, those that know the history of Kremandala know well the woes of sedition and the purpose that that legislative tool serves. I smile as I think we may know these waters a little too well. The government’s Gazette must also still be paid for. We must also pay attention to the ownership of media companies in Belize, but that musing is for another day.
I sense this piece is getting a bit longer than usual, and so I’ll end with some words of journalist Cherisse Halsall, who herself was paraphrasing Jules Vasquez: The job of the media fraternity is to inflict the comfortable and comfort the inflicted. A phrase not quoted, but practiced, by KREM News’ editor, Marisol Amaya. Working under her tutelage has been a short but impactful part of my own journey as a storyteller. What does a liberating education mean to you?