by Simon Pipe
Readers of this website will know that I was quoted in The Independent newspaper in the UK, saying that St Helenians were wonderful people but they could not run businesses.
I am emphatically not claiming that I was misquoted, but people who know me will know I do not hold that view. I am aware of many successful businesses on St Helena.
I was originally going to be a by-lined reporter on the story, but then suggested it might be easier to tell it if I was quoted instead. When one journalist is briefing another, naturally one does not speak with the same caution as one might use in a formal interview.
I was trying to get across the scale of the economic change the island needs to undergo, based on the draft Sustainable Development Plan. It said the island had “little private sector consumption, capability, capacity or investment.”
I’d like to express my regret, unreservedly.
The remark was clearly offensive, so I asked The Sentinel not to publish it. I made the request via a member of the board of the SHBC, which publishes the paper.
I have now been made aware of the historical reasons why this was misinterpreted as an attempt at censorship, and I have great sympathy for the dilemma in which Darrin Henry, as CEO, found himself.
In the UK, it is perfectly reasonable to ask that something be withheld from a newspaper if there is a good reason. I said that the newspaper quote did not reflect my personal view, and I was concerned that giving it further publicity would embarrass me and cause further offence.
Darrin now accepts that my request was exactly that – a request. I did say that if the story was to run I would like to explain my position (and express my regret). This is standard good practice and it is unfortunate I was not given this opportunity.
Darrin did nothing wrong in re-publishing my quote – even though I wish he hadn’t.
He and his team have taken on a tough job. Journalism is not easy. Although there are legitimate matters of public concern about the way The Sentinel came into being, the paper has done some promising things.
In particular, Sharon Henry’s reporting of council meetings is a very positive step, and very important for island democracy. All media serving St Helena should be working together to make government affairs more open.
I hope readers of this website will judge it for themselves. I aim to make it editorially balanced and neutral on matters of controversy. It is a university project and its future is uncertain – so please enjoy it while you can.
I have given a similar statement to The Sentinel, following amicable negotiations between Darrin Henry and myself. We have agreed the printed statement as a first step; we also agreed to delay discussions about publication of the censorship claim on the internet.