The Media Association of T&T (MATT) has spoken out again Trinidad-born US-based rapper Nicki Minaj for her attacks on local reporter Sharlene Rampersad on social media.
In a media release on Saturday, Dr Sheila Rampersad, outgoing MATT president said “Nicki Minaj’s celebrity gangsterism towards Guardian Media Ltd’s (GML) reporter, Sharlene Rampersad, is textbook cyberbullying and intimidation of a free press in a young democracy.
“While Ms Minaj may be justified in calling for scrutiny of the journalist’s methods—that is, stoking the fears of an ordinary citizen caught, through no action of his own, in the maelstrom of an international story—the rapper’s doxxing and cussing are extreme reactions that should concern those closest to her.
“Sensational as this story may be, it is but a global amplification of the relentless intimidation of T&T journalists that has become routine.”
She said there was hardly a journalist or newsroom in T&T that had not been the subject of profuse cyberbullying, physical assault, ridicule, mockery, threats, police action, intimidation or trolling.
Rampersad added that the silence of institutions and the public had fuelled this danger, despite calls from MATT since 2015 for increased protection of journalists.
Giving an example, Rampersad pointed to “the ongoing denigration of GML’s Business Editor Curtis Williams and whistleblowers, as he covered significant public-interest concerns at the National Gas Company (NGC) and other journalists can recount multiple examples of intimidation.”
She said GML’s statement against the cyberbullying of Rampersad (Sharlene) was a welcome intervention from her employer.
Rampersad opined if there was one good that can be realised from Minaj’s meltdown, it was the international focus created by the rapper on questions about control of information, restrictions on free speech, and scrutiny of the mainstream media’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She elaborated that Minaj’s original post resonated with anxieties of people around the world who felt they were not being told the whole story about either the virus or vaccine and who saw the media as complicit in manipulating information.
Rampersad said public distrust was answered by mandates and other impositions, further alienating populations and generating greater distrust.
She added that the contribution of Independent Senator Anthony Vieira in the Senate last Friday on Ivermectin made the point in his question “Why is information being distorted, suppressed and dismissed?”
Rampersad declared that this ugly episode touched many important issues in contemporary journalism, among them the role of journalists themselves in serving the public with diverse facts and perspectives.