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Barbados: Blogs in Danger?

Barbadian blogs are some of the most outspoken in the Caribbean, regularly taking politicians and mainstream media to task for issues such as transparency and public accountability. The landslide opposition victory in the country's recently held general elections has raised the issue of the power of the blogosphere and whether popular political blogs like Barbados Free Press and Barbados Underground had a role to play in influencing the vote.

After the DLP win, Barbados Free Press found that post-election analysis failed to acknowledge the work of bloggers, noting:

Neither the DLP nor the Barbados news media want to mention the blogs and the voice that every citizen now has.

Neither the DLP nor the Barbados news media want to mention how much of the public’s vote was driven by the growing realization and disgust of the corrupt activities of the past government AND the growing public realization and disgust with the spineless Barbados news media.

Neither the DLP nor Peter Wickham want to mention that during the election they turned to the Bajan blogs because they realized that the new media is now playing a significant role in our society.

Keltruth Corp., however, was quick to address the issue in his own blog:

Role of the Blogs plus a Few Brave Souls!
The more established blogs have really delivered on the news that the Nation, Advocate and CBC would not touch. Things that the ruling party would have preferred swept under the carpet were brought to light. Congratulations especially to BU and BFP for their amazing coverage of the news and the elections. Bravo!

Congratulations to those brave souls actually residing in the island, who kept passing on and reporting the news despite the numerous threats.

Way back in July 2006, Barbados Free Press blogged about a call for internet regulation by then-Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley:

…the Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados is calling for changes to our system of government – saying that call-in shows “will continue to predominate” and that internet blogs “marginalize…parliaments and cause disrespect (for the rule of law and institutions that keep our society safe,)”…

Ms. Mottley is now the Leader of the Opposition and while she personally has not resurrected the issue of internet regulation, the topic still appears to be very much on the table – a topic that is of great interest to us here at Global Voices.

Barbados Free Press reports that a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly has spoken out against the blogs in a mainstream newspaper, calling them “a virulent threat to democracy”:

Ezra Alleyne Just Doesn’t Get It.

The world has changed. The elites of media, government and business no longer have the ability to censor information from the public. No longer can they control the discussion by ignoring issues and preventing them from being discussed in a public forum. No longer can they make court cases and other news “disappear” from the public record when it suits their purpose.

Barbados Underground has also taken notice of the anti-blog sentiment, this time expressed by a University of the West Indies lecturer:

On this evening’s talk show, our eardrums were offended by the preamble delivered by Dr. Don Marshall, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill. In essence, he suggested that the unregulated environment in which Barbados Free Press and Barbados Underground peddles information is a dangerous development which should concern Barbadians. He believes that if Barbadians have to resort to the blogs to air their views then we are not living in a democracy – words to that effect.

It smacks of a high class hypocrisy that Marshall would make a statement on national radio to imply that the Bajan blogosphere is a negative for Barbados.

So are Bajan blogs under attack? That may still be up for debate, but according to Barbados Free Press, the Bajan blogosphere is here to stay:

Welcome to the future. Most of us newly-active Bajan voters are young and idealistic… and we are online.

There are over 2 million WordPress blogs in existence today. While the stats change daily, at this moment CNN News Political Ticker is the #1 most popular WordPress blog in the world.

Fox News Presidential Campaign Blog is the #3 WordPress blog in the world.
And on Wednesday, January 16, 2008, the #4 WordPress blog in the world is Barbados Free Press.

That’s right… a nothing little blog run by a group of amateur writers on a tiny Caribbean island is, right now, the #4 most popular WordPress blog in the world.

13 comments

  • Hi Janine,

    I’m wondering why you think Barbados bloggers are more vocal than others in the Caribbean. Is it cultural, computer access, something else?

    Maya

  • Cecilia

    Whoever it was that wrote that comment about what Dr Marshall said on the radio clearly did not comprehend the point that the UWI lecturer was making. I heard the discussion and I agreed with his point – which was, it is dangerous for Barbados to have gotten to the point where the only way that its citizens can air their views against the Government and other powers that be is through anonymous blogs. He was basically saying that if we are at the point where people cannot voice their dissent openly without fear of recrimination then we are in a bad way. One only has to look at the fact that Barbados Free Press (a misnomer if there ever was one) had to arise over the Internet and up to now has been unable or unwilling to make it publicly known who are the persons behind it. This can only speak to the fear of reprisal and recrimination that accompanies such outspokenness

  • Hi Maya,

    I didn’t say that Bajan bloggers were more vocal than other Caribbean territories, just that they were “some of the most outspoken” – and they are certainly one of the territories with the highest number of blogs regularly following political developments.

    Higher internet penetration may have something to do with it, but I can’t speak to any other push factors without adequate research. I will say, though, that judging from the number of active Barbadian blogs and the high levels of comments/hits they enjoy, citizen media is obviously a platform many Bajans have got on board with.

    Janine.

  • People who should know better are up in arms against blogs. I think it is okay to denounce unsociable misfits and any form of illegal behavior but to curtail people from freely expressing themselves is just another form of slavery. The country had been asleep outside of the Blogosphere, thanks to the blogging few, there has been an awakening for change. Have you noticed how many organizations are asking for immediate audience with the new Prime Minister. They woke up and found themselves in a different world and are screaming like babies for mummy.

    Faces of The Bajan Blogosphere

    Fear of change can cripple the scholarly
    And this is not uncommon with changing technology
    Clocks went digital many years ago
    Every since then the digital world started to grow
    Sending some academics in a tale spin
    Only comfortable with their circle and to stay within
    Fax machine, copier, camcorder and DVD
    The revolutionary ghouls of digital technology
    Have taken over the world and now the Internet
    Enables users to usurp a greatness in the global market
    Blogging emerged from special interest groups
    Administered by authors who can censor the oops
    Journalists, politicians and many other heads
    Author their thoughts to stimulate comment threads
    Now other professionals and hobbyists too
    Blog their expertise and creations to you
    Life through their eyes and experiences they had
    Organized chronologically by the magic of a keypad
    Growth comes when we can freely express
    Our deepest concerns without any redress
    Some may also choose to blog anonymously
    People have their rights to protect their privacy
    However you look at it blogging is a welcome tool
    Entertaining and educating but there’s a golden rule
    Resist immorality, illegality and other social no nos
    Exercise these and be assured where the Blogosphere grows

  • Knowing Don Marshall, I do agree with the proposal that he was saying not only is it dangerous that B’dos reached a stage where it has to have anonymous citizen journalists express a true feeling about stories not seen in the regular media, but also the idea of regulating Internet access – look at “Cecilia” who says Barbados Free Press is a misnomer, then it seems to me that she supports some of totalitarian jurisprudence of cyberspace!

    As one of the few bloggers here who is not anonymous, and a Govt employee, I walk a very thin tightrope. I usually keep to arts, entertainment and sports as those are safe topics – when I attempted to run an expose on a business mistreating its denizens I was threatened with a lawsuit despite photographic evidence and scanned records of fatalities within its services! Yet later on, the same entity sought to correct the very wrongs brought to light my now removed article!

    So if there were no anonymous bloggers, Barbados would probably be like Antigua under the Birds up ’til the early 2000s.

  • Michelle Proverbs

    Janine,

    Are you aware that Barbados Free Press routinely DELETES comments which speak positively about Barbados or the former BLP government? And that it made a call for Barbadians to vote for the then opposition DLP?

  • I do not always publish unflattering remarks in my Blog, we are ALL guilty of it, even here – as comments are moderated, BFP and I have disagreed on issues like Islam and UK Navy and it was published among other issues – so for Ms Proverbs to infer tht only pro-Dem remarks were printed at BFP is rank horsefeathers.

    Diehard BLP-Users like “royalrumble” were almost given Colums on BFP for God’s sake! They balanced it with contributor “Wishing In Vain” but when the shoe is not on their foot, that’s a problem… I wrote about my view on James Brown and BFPO did not use it this is not to say they support the dark side of the late soul singer (at least, I hope so)!

    But because you Michelle Proverbs gives a comment does not mean it MUST be published – get over it!

  • Colin Joss

    I say they are not really in danger. It is how they like to do things. If you want to keep politic environment healthy, then keeping vocal voices will really help to keep that in balance. If only other country would have that kind of freedom like barbados blogs.

    Colin Joss
    Colin.Joss@gmail.com
    East Lothian, Haddington
    United Kingdom

  • Michelle Proverbs

    Ian Bourne,

    I also forgot to mention that BFP heavily promotes the minority of WHITE and LIGHTER-SKINNED people who live in Barbados (like YOU and that British guy Adrian Loveridge) while constantly making snide remarks about black Barbadians.

    People like you need to understand that slavery and colonialism are long dead and those days will NEVER come back, no matter how much filth and lies BFP pumps out.

    BFP is nothing but a cyber-cesspool for racist minded whites and whitish people in Barbados to come and spill their guts.

  • Proverbs:

    Your errant and detracting racial slurs in and of themselves are not worth my time of day, I certainly brought no race into it, and I would love for you to point out where I have made comments against myself as I am mixed – but what is more interesting is I believe you have exposed your true calling!

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