Between seeing friends and family, snorkeling, going to the Belize Zoo, and various other activities, I have been watching and reading the news in Belize.
One of the big stories right now is a controversy about comments made by the Minister of Foregin Affairs, Wildred “Sedi” Elrington. As far as I can make out, Mr. Elrington — speaking about the on-going Belize-Guatemala dispute — called the border between these two countries “artificial.” He says he was using the terms in the diplomatic/geo-political sense. The leading opposition party and some media observers are calling Mr. Elrington a traitor, saying he is advocating for a dissolution of the border between the countries. This strikes fear in the hearts of most Belizeans, who are very aware that Guatemala claims Belize as its own territory.
Yesterday on the morning show, “Open Your Eyes” (which airs on Channel 5), Mr. Elrington explained his position, conceding the term he used (artificial border) was probably misleading, since most Belizeans are not familiar with the meaning he had in mind. He defended his bona fides as a staunch opponent of giving an inch on the Guatemala question.
It struck me that the show’s hosts gave the minister wide latitude to expound and expand. He used the opportunity to criticize a leading newspaper for failing to seek “his side of the story,” an explanation or context. Furthermore, he praised both Channel 5 and rival Channel 7 news operations for giving him the chance to comment.
There is something to be said for giving newsmakers enough time to fill in the gaps. But it’s a fine line between that and allowing the newsmaker to run away with the interview. Co-hosts William Neal and Marleni Cuellar did a pretty good job to keep things balanced.
Another big story is the tossing of a grenade on the Belize City street recently, which killed a teenage boy. On Monday a suspect was arraigned and, taking a stroll downtown, my cousin and I watched as local media gathered outside Magistrate’s Court for the “perp walk.” There is something very comforting about see journalists in action, no matter where in the world they may be! The family of the accused was outside the court too, along with various gawkers.
Coverage about this story has included, “He didn’t do it” and “It’s a police frame-up job,” from relatives members of the community. One of the most interesting stories last night asked the question: “How did a grenade get onto the streets?” The reporter asked pointed questions of the Commander of the British Army Training Support Unit in Belize (BATSUB), who admitted that somehow 25 grenades disappeared from BATSUB facilities. That means someone out there has quite a few grenades to lob in the future.
Good stuff. The coverage, not the grenades.
Here are a few more media items about Belize:
* Channel 5 launched a brand new studio for its newscasts and other programming this week. Channel 5 is a technological and journalistic pioneer in Belize, having aired the first independent (non-government) television newscast in the country, back in 1991. Channel 5 also recently re-launched its web site, allowing for easier perusal and sharing.
* I was reminded that local television news airs at 6:30 pm on both Belize City stations. They record and re-air their shows at 10:00 pm. Morning shows are also re-aired later in the day.
* There’s a new radio station to add to the list in my previous blog, MORE-FM. It’s run by Rene Villanueva who also owns other media outlets. Mr. Villanueva was a Radio Belize stalwart back in the day and I worked as intern for him one summer when I was in Belize. Also added to list of media in Belize: PlusTV, KREM-TV, and LOVE-TV.
* Belize does not have a daily newspaper. At least two, The Guardian and The Belize Times are tied to political parties (see photo below). Newspapers come out on a weekly or twice weekly basis, although the web now allows more frequent news updates. At least two television stations offer streaming video (not live) as well as verbatim text of their newscasts. They do not rework the content as many US stations and networks do for online versions of their stories.
That’s all for now.