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May 3, 2018

On World Press Freedom Day, the Legacy of Philip S.W. Goldson

Today, Belize joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. May third is a day used to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.  The Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 World Press Freedom Index puts Belize at forty-seven out of one-hundred-eighty-countries. According to the site, coverage of political developments and criminal cases in Belize is controversial because the media are extremely polarized. The site goes on to say, “Cases of threats, intimidation and harassment of journalists are occasionally reported.”  But the climate in which the press operates today is different than it was decades ago and to highlight this, the Goldson House for Democracy and Patriotism invited students to learn about Belize’s pioneer in journalism, Philip Goldson. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.


Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson is one of the founding fathers of Belize’s democracy. With more than sixty years of service, his life’s work contributed to and shaped politics, activism and journalism in Belize. In honor of World Press Freedom Day, the Institute of Social & Cultural Research put the spotlight on Goldson’s career as a journalist. His work with the Belize Billboard propelled him to national prominence and landed him in jail. But Belize’s press has come a long way since the Goldson era.  And today, his life’s work continues to inspire and empower many, including veteran journalist Adele Ramos. Ramos was a guest presenter at the Goldson House World Press Freedom Day where she addressed high school students.


Adele Ramos

Adele Ramos, Journalist

“I am huge fan of Mister Goldson, his work and his role as a statesman; not just a politician – a statesman who fought for the causes that matter to people and used journalism as a platform to elevate.  Journalism does have a lighter side to it and I pointed them [students] to this article over here that was published by the Billboard, which I find very funny, which was reproducing a speech but instead of actually reproducing the words, it goes ‘blah blahblahblah.’ Then it reproduces a part of what was said and then it goes blah blahblahblah. So, back in the days, Mr. Goldson used journalism to fight against the colonial rule and to promote the nationalist movement. So, it fell right in line with his ideals and what he wanted to accomplish.”


Ramos, who comes from a family of journalists, has been a member of the press for twenty- three years. She has witnessed first-hand how mainstream media has evolved. She says that despite the new developments in media platforms, the public must be active media consumers and journalists should embrace new media:


Adele Ramos

“Indeed there are many instances where you have things reported or published and reproduced that are not true. Or where people have their own agendas, so they use the social media platform to twist information and propagate things that may go viral to suit their agendas, so to an extent we really need to be discerning so that we do not fall victims to that kind of propaganda. But there is a good side to it too; because I can remember when we didn’t have access to all of this and we started to go on the online platform and start putting our news online; then social media came and we are then able to feed from our online platform into social media. And that is good because that is where the engagement is.”


A free press for many is only concept – luckily for us in Belize, the students also toured the Goldson House where an installation of past articles and work chronicling Goldson’s life is on display. Kendra Griffith of Goldson House says today shares an important out-of-classroom lesson with the youth.


Kendra Griffith

Kendra Griffith, Coordinator, Goldson House

“We have the writer and journalist room and in that room we have different stories and articles that he wrote, for example, the seven days of freedom which he wrote contrasting life between Belize and Guatemala. Press is the Guardian of Free Speech which is perfect for today’s celebration. Our theme is let journalism live. In the room of writer and journalist, we always tend to share that even when Goldson was in prison he was still writing. He and Lee Richardson would write on toilet paper, sneak it to the guard who would take it to the cook and who would give it to his brother Lindbergh who would continue publication. So, we are just showing that with such perseverance he did not let any obstacle come between him and sharing the news to the society at the time.  When we first started the tour with the students, I asked them how many of them would like to be journalists and none of their hands went up. At the end of the tour, I re-asked the question and a few hands went up and for us that is change in itself because they started to share that they would like to start blogs, they would like to share news about things happening in Belmopan. And that is how it starts, just little by little and each step creating change.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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