(Republished from The News, with consent)
Online publication St. Vincent Times has come under closer scrutiny as the authenticity and credibility of being journalists has been questioned as well as the credibility of the article itself and the credibility of the publication.
Weeks after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who also has responsibility for national security, canvassed the idea that foreign operatives may be linked to this country’s recent mass killings, the local publication has published an article stating that a number of local journalists are “linked to foreign campaign operatives” and “planned political attacks” in this country.
Purported to have been written by one Lee Yan LaSur and published on www.stvincenttimes.com on August 14, 2023, the article stated that a “ring of local journalists in St Vincent and the Grenadines are alleged to be linked to foreign-hired consultants who were on the island as part of one political party’s strategic communications planning in preparation for the upcoming elections.”
Following the brutal stabbing of Cuban medical doctor Alfredo Batista Salgado in the area just outside His Majesty’s Prison in Kingstown near his McKie’s Hill residence late night in late June and the assault almost two weeks later on 39-year old Daima Ves Aeosta, a medical engineer who sustained chop wounds to his hand, and his 46-year old companion Janet Gameo Fableone, an x-ray technician who was struck in the area of her nose with a stone at Georgetown, Gonsalves had raised the question of whether the two incidents were mere coincidences or organised.
Then came the incident where state employees at the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority went to Huffle’s at Brighton Beach and destroyed some benches and other items. Following that, on the night of July 19, a mass shooting in Kingstown, the nation’s worst ever, that left five persons dead.
Gonsalves said there were some foreign political operatives on the ground who were not in the country at the request of his Unity Labour Party (ULP) and he wanted to raise the issue for public consideration as to whether the foreign operatives were linked to the incidents.
“I’m not saying it definitively. I just raise it for the public’s consideration. For a few weeks, last few weeks, there were some foreign operatives in the politics on the ground in St. Vincent, not there on behalf of the ULP,” Gonsalves said.
“But I watched the attacks on the Cubans. I watched the problem at Huffle’s. I watched this shooting that was just carried out. Each of those activities may have their own discreet origin but I have enough knowledge of history in this Caribbean of how persons have sought to stoke confusion and to take advantage of whatever discrete difficulties there may be in individual cases. I’m not speaking on this in a definitive manner. But when I see a number of things I don’t just say coincidence,” Gonsalves also stated.
St. Vincent Times stated on Monday that, according to well-placed sources, “meetings were held with foreign political operatives at a private location on the outskirts of Kingstown during July and early August, when the consultants visited St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
The online publication also said they also learned that “at least several disinformation campaigns are planned for key government officials, members of the Taiwanese Embassy, and important projects such as the new Kingstown Port Development and Sandals Resort Development.”
“The source indicated that some parts of the disinformation campaign have been launched. It is alleged that the foreign election engineering firm is testing the ground with a very small part of the suggested “groundswell guerilla campaign” ahead of the 2025 elections to show its local employers what they can do when the time comes closer to the election.”
St. Vincent Times mentioned a “leaked record of a document circulated at one of the meetings” which pointed to targeting young voters as part of the “’advanced persuasion methodology’” to discourage young Vincentians from voting.
“The St. Vincent Times has learned that the foreign group has suggested “intercepting communications at the local Taiwan Embassy” as part of their operation and “hiring local journalists and media entities”, who will publish and circulate information prepared by the foreign election engineering firm.
It is not clear who the local journalists and media outlets identified as part of the planned “groundswell guerilla campaign are, but sources are pointing to at least a number of journalists”… It is not confirmed whether any radio broadcasters are linked to the ring of journalists who are considered to be “under special assignment” or contract,” the St Vincent Times article stated.
‘simply reverse psychology’
Editor of The News newspaper Shelley Clarke, responding to the article, on Wednesday said it was without merit and far-fetched.
“In any case, the (leaders of the) political parties don’t call me so there is no likelihood that they will invite me to be a part of anything so fancy,” Clarke said.
“It is simply reverse psychology; just guess a few stories that may come up over the next few weeks and when they come, you say, ‘yes, I told you so.’ What is really bad though, is the use of so-called journalists to throw out such propaganda and because the numbers are small so that it can be pointed to just a few persons, slander genuine journalists and suggesting it is written by some fictitious name doesn’t mean the real writers can’t be sued,” he added.
Local Journalist and iWitness News’ executive editor Kenton Chance, in a call to Hot 97.1 radio station’s AM Mayhem interactive programme, on Monday morning raised the question as to the identity of the article’s writer, Le Yan LaSur, who the publication claims to be a journalist based in the Philippines.
Chance said that he had done some research and he was yet to see that alleged writer writing for any other publication anywhere.
“And it does raise questions as to whether or not this person, this so-called journalist, is a real person. And if it is the case that this person is not a real person, then it raises serious issues about the credibility of not only what this person writes, generally…”
Chance said if one looks at the articles that have been written by Lee Yan La Sur, “they are all of a particular type so one can come to their own conclusion about whatever…
“This is a serious issue for the media. The allegations are quite interesting,” Chance said.
Commenting on the article and its content, Chance said that as a communications professional, one who was trained in communication but he practices journalism, he believed there might be a situation where something is about to come to the fore and so, in anticipation, someone decided to strike a pre-emptive blow so they put it out there first.
Chance said that Ernesto Cooke, who operates the website, has had years of experience in media and so should be inspired to look into these things rather than just write them in such a salacious manner.
He said the question should be asked as to what is going on at Sandals, for example, that people should be concerned about.
“Who are these foreign operatives? Who are these journalists?” Chance asked, suggesting that the writer of the article should expose them.
“If you know that there are journalists who are involved in political work and doing dirty political stuff, out them; call them by name so that people can know when they see writing from this person they would know that this is inspired by this or that opinion.
“Journalism is like turning on a light in a dark room, you know. When you turn it on, all the cockroaches scatter,” Chance said.
Freelance journalist Sheron Garraway, in response to a question on Wednesday, described the article as “just a fishing expedition and a paranoia…
“Focus on the issues affecting the people,” Garraway advised. “It’s just a fishing expedition to say something like that. Look at the issue. Crime is an issue. There are so many issues going on –people are afraid to go out — the economy. What kind of nonsense they’re talking? I don’t know what they’re going on with and all kind of stupidness.”
The St. Vincent Times has made no mention of any investigation done to verify the accuracy of the information said to have been received. Neither was any mention made of any attempt to get a response from any media practitioner.
The idea has been canvassed that in a small society with not many practicing journalists, three printed newspapers and just a few online publications, the list of journalists is a small one and so there is the issue of possible defamation.
The St. Vincent Times report also said, “sources are pointing to at least a number of journalists, one linked to a popular newspaper and another to an online news site”.
Now, there are only three newspapers and later on one is spoken of favourably so that may narrow it down to just two, showing how it is slandering journalists.
In any event, the article and its content has linked the media and journalists to a small, identifiable group of persons who government authorities and others have raised question or canvassed the idea of a possibility that they may be linked to deadly crimes and political attacks which are geared toward destabilising the country and toppling the current administration.