The Grenada Revolution Online

NWICO - New World Information and Communication Order

A background story to the PRG's battle for control of power with opposition newspapers, local and regional, rests in part upon what was known at that time as the NWICO - the New World Information and Communication Order.

NWICO is not be confused with the "New World Order" of our time, as described by Dupuy:

. . . the new world order refers to the global hegemony of capitalism and the absence of any competing noncapitalist or socialist blocs, and the unchallenged status of the United States as the only global superpower.

The contemporary NEW WORLD ORDER is not the subject here.

NWICO grew out of the New International Economic Order of 1974. From 1976-1978, the New World Information and Communication Order was generally called the shorter New World Information Order or the New International Information Order.

The start of this discussion is the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) as associated with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) starting from the early 1970s.

Mass media concerns began with the meeting of non-aligned nations in Algiers, 1973; again in Tunis 1976, and later in 1976 at the New Delhi Ministerial Conference of Non-Aligned Nations.

The 'new order' plan was textually formulated by Tunisia's Information Minister Mustapha Masmoudi. Masmoudi submitted working paper No. 31 to the MacBride Commission. These proposals of 1978 were titled the 'Mass Media Declaration.' The MacBride Commission at the time was a 16-member body created by UNESCO to study communication issues. Issued was Many Voices, One World (The MacBride Report), 1980, 312 pages, UNESCO.

The Resolution 4/19 Adopted by the Twenty-first Session of the UNESCO General Conference, Belgrade, 1980, was established as follows:

14. The General conference considers that

  1. this new world information and communication order could be based, among other considerations, on:

    1. elimination of the imbalances and inequalities which characterize the present situation;

    2. elimination of the negative effects of certain monopolies, public or private, and excessive concentrations;

    3. removal of the internal and external obstacles to a free flow and wider and better balanced dissemination of information and ideas;

    4. plurality of sources and channels of information;

    5. freedom of the press and information;

    6. the freedom of journalists and all professionals in the communication media, a freedom inseparable from responsibility;

    7. the capacity of developing countries to achieve improvement of their own situations, notably by providing their own equipment, by training their personnel, by improving their infrastructures and by making their information and communication media suitable to their needs and aspirations;

    8. the sincere will of developed countries to help them attain these objectives;

    9. respect for each people's cultural identity and for the right of each nation to inform the world public about its interests, its aspirations and its social and cultural values;

    10. respect for the right of all peoples to participate in international exchanges of information on the basis of equality, justice and mutual benefit;

    11. respect for the right of the public, of ethnic and social groups and of individuals to have access to information sources and to participate actively in the communication process:

  2. this new world information and communication order should be based on the fundamental principles of international law, as laid down in the Charter of the United Nations;

  3. diverse solutions to information and communication problems are required because social, political, cultural and economic problems differ from one country to another and, within a given country, from one group to another.

(UNESCO Records of the General Conference 1980, vol 1, Res 14/19)

In addition to Masmoudi's proposals, other proposals made or discussed were thrown in the general pot of NWICO. Various interpretations of the floating body of proposals and understanding of NWICO principles were numerous.

Official UNESCO policy in relation to NWICO did not support state control or censorship, but interpretations were made within the massive pages and numbers of proposals and recommendations.

Deosaran provides this information:

. . . between 1975 and 1984, a series of conferences have been held around UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] in Paris on the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). The U.N. members were deeply divided. This 'non-aligned" group was much for it. The private publishers, the U.S. and about 25 other western states are against substantial parts of it.'

In the view of the most of the non-aligned nations, we find a belief in breaking the apparent or real monopoly of the regional media bodies and their links to trans-national information systems.

The NWICO history and progress through time is complicated. Debates continue to this day as the points were diffused by changes. Essentially, a new kind of thought concerning the impact of world information on undeveloped countries is the order of the day.

As an example of one of the earliest ideas of the NWICO, Ramesh Deosaran writes, in his chapter "The Politics of Information and the P.R.G." of "The Grenada File":

The Guyana's policy of 'development support communication' argues that:

'Developing countries such as Guyana . . . face very real dangers from unquestioned acceptance of public communication models and concepts transferred from the industrialized developed West . . . Certainly, government ownership of the media is not a denial of freedom of expression but rather a guarantee of the right to information of a kind relevant to the nation's development priorities.'

The quote above comes from Deosaran's citation below:

C.A. Nascimento, former Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office, Government of Guyana. Paper delivered at Communications Conference, Georgetown, Guyana, December 1, 1974.

The above conference was called "Communications and Information Development Purposes in the Caribbean area." It was a seminar organised by Guyana Ministry of Information in cooperation with International Broadcast Institute and the Friedrich Maumann Stiftung.

The concept of 'development support communication' was the talk of Third World Nations.

A concise summary of NWICO is given by Ulla Carlsson:

The demand for a new international information order was an outgrowth of third-world resentment of the imbalances in international news flows, as summarized in the phrase, 'one-way-flow'; the lack of respect for third-world peoples' cultural identity that such imbalances reflected, the monopoly positions of transnational communication corporations, which were perceived as a threat to the countries' national independence; and the inequitable distribution of communication resources in the world.

A concept of the Four Ds' was developed and written by Nordenstreng and referenced in Carlsson's paper:

Four cornerstones emerge out of the material; they were referred to as 'the four Ds'. They represent themes that recur time and again in the discussions of the new order.

  1. News flows are castigated as "one-way flows", and measures to ensure a more equitable balance of news flows between countries are demanded (Democratization).

  2. The 'one-way flow' and misrepresentations are interpreted to reflect a lack of respect for the countries' cultural identities, a matter of great importance to the non-aligned countries (Decolonization).

  3. The monopoly status of transnational corporations in terms of communication technology is perceived as a threat to national independence (Demonopolization).

  4. The vital role of mass media in the development process is underlined, and the non-aligned countries join together to demand a more just distribution of communication resources in the world (Development).

We can assume that Maurice Bishop and other leaders of the New Jewel Movement had some familiarity with communication discussions in their trips abroad to conferences. It seems to follow that information control was one of the 'new' ideas of countries emerging from colonialism, and that hit a chord with the New Jewel Movement leaders.

To the fledgling People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) it looked as if they were only trying to do good for the country, hoe a new path, and lead Grenada on the road forward. Raising people's consciousness and knowledge, and how to bring about change in a revolutionary way, was one top priority. In addition, it is apparent the PRG was attempting to gain control of the media.

Deosaran writes about the merit of state unity through the media:

There is some philosophical merit in the concept of a 'one party state' with subsequent media control to guide national development. An underlying basis for this philosophy is that 'superficial' social conflict and 'frivolous' media content would be diminished by the patriotic ideals of an 'all people government.

Recall it was the 1973 Manifesto of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) that called for Grenada to join the Non-Aligned Movement

Maurice Bishop traveled to Guyana 26-29 March 1974 at the end of a trip to North America. In Georgetown, Guyana, Bishop attended the Regional Steering Committee of the 6th Pan African Congress (SPAC).

In November 1974 historian Walter Rodney returned to Guyana and joined the WPA [Working Peoples Alliance], an organization which, at its start-up, declared it was Marxist.

Before August 1976, Selwyn Strachan, traveled to Guyana for talks, as confirmed by Special Branch.

Selwyn Strachan as Minister for Communications, Works, and Labour and Kendrick Radix attended the Sri Lanka meeting of Non-Aligned Countries 4-8 June 1979.

Maurice Bishop went to the Sixth Non-Aligned Country Conference in Havana September 1979.

It was not as if the leadership were unfamiliar with non-aligned country issues. Later, Bishop talked about the New World Information Order in his speech [see bottom of page] to the Media Workers Association after the close-down of the Grenadian Voice.

The leaders of the NJM/PRG appear to have had the rationalization that because Grenada was an undeveloped country, they had a right to say that Grenada's path was special; therefore it need minimal criticism - ergo the 'good news' as a result of control of the media. They understood fully the crucial role of mass communication in the development process.

Their specific complaint was basically that the international wire services ignored, belittled or distorted news about Third World countries. It was a belief that privately-owned media were concerned only with privileged classes. The top news became a commodity in order for the media to make money [in a capitalist manner]. There was a fear that journalist and media owner interest in the country was because they were on the payroll of the US Central Intelligence Agency [CIA].

The PRG has established media control in Grenada by the middle of 1981. The government owned the major newspaper in Grenada, the Free West Indian, with smaller specialized papers; an Information Office; the only local radio station - Radio Free Grenada; the only local television station - Television Free Grenada. The government also produced a line of high-quality publications from Fedon Publishing.

The PRG retained the Government Information Service [GIS] established by Eric Matthew Gairy. It is acknowledged that the institution of a Government Information Services establishes a link between government and private media. The usual practice is the government issues a Press Release, and private media writes it up as if it were a news story. A GIS organization would often entice the best of the local private media to join up with them which, in small island states, depleted talent from a limited pool. Gairy had set the stage for state presentation and control of information. It followed that the PRG had an active and productive GIS - printing speeches, issuing press releases, channeling overseas news to Grenadians off-island.

The People's Revolutionary Government realized what was at stake is government gaining the "hearts and minds' of the people. Thus the PRG not only had the media control itemized above, but attempted to educate the public of all ages through government programs, newly written textbooks, workplace seminars, and political studies.

The state-controlled content of the information issued by the PRG began to be viewed as skillful propaganda and, indeed, information from Grenada seemed isolate and different from the rest of the Caribbean. Continuous apologies or avoidance of all negative events became boring and irrelevant. 'Good' news didn't go over with the masses "in the spirit of the Revolution."

The conflict between local and regional media and the Grenadian government was a continuous undertow. The quotation below could as well be about Grenada. According to David A. Granger, writing about "Guyana's State Media" as posted in the Stabroek News 18 June 2000:

The result, as John Lent pointed out, was a clash of two value systems: the press as 'watchdog' of the government vs the press as the 'tool' of officialdom. In the latter role, the press loses its independence.

Deosaran uses Grenada as an example "to show how the realities of Caribbean politics make this philosophy a difficult one to realise." The 'patriotic ideals,' of political groups quickly get reduced to self-serving machinations. The dynamics of democratic politics makes it almost impossible for any one political group to claim a monopoly on political virtue.

Consider this: Grenada under the PRG could not protect itself, as it were, from the influence of the world, primarily through media communications.

Even in our time, an example posted is the complaint that young people are losing their cultural heritage and values; only to be replaced by the cultural heritage and values they see on incursive MTV programs shown on the Grenada Broadcasting Network. The cultural heritage and values young people adopt are Western, usually American. The styles they adopt for themselves, some say, are consumerist and disrespectful, and the values are out of line with traditional Grenadian values. The impact on youth in Grenada by Western media values is evident in dress styles with implications of changes in behavior, morals and aspirations.

The existing press was seen by Bishop and others in the government to be operating within a legacy of colonialism. The regional press had funds to subscribe to the major wire services which, though international in scope, were based in the United States and Europe. Existing radio was seen to be anchored by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) with its tradition of Caribbean news service.

The PRG/NJM leaders were angry and frustrated with fears of losing media control to the monopoly of the strong regional media. The conflict was centered publicly around the closing down of "The Torchlight [closed 10 October 1979]" and later "The Grenadian Voice" [closed 19 June 1981].

During the years between 1979-1983, the importation of major regional newspapers to Grenada - the Trinidad Express, the Trinidad Guardian, the Jamaica Gleaner, the Advocate and the Nation from Barbados - as well as international newspapers and news magazines such as TIME and NEWSWEEK magazines, though lauded by Bishop himself, came head up against the PRG's attempts at print media information control.

Included in this conflict was regional radio communication reached Grenada from outside the island, drawing listeners to sounds and ideas not heard on Radio Free Grenada. Especially irksome to the PRG were the broadcasts from BBC.

The conflict was exacerbated by regional media's complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) was stopping the free flow of information. This was known as Oliver Clarke [managing editor of the Jamaica Gleaner] and Others Alleging Violations of Human Rights in Grenada, 31 July 1981.

It appeared to the leadership of the PRG that the regional media followed a consistent 'line.' The leaders reasoned that it followed that this united 'line' was laid down by the CIA.

Bishop enunciated his views in his feature address at the official opening of the Media Workers Association of Free Grenada, 11 July 1981.

[excerpt]

We find that the national information and communications system that we have is only slightly developed, or just beginning to develop. That is true of most of our country. We find secondly, that we have to depend almost completely on the imperialist trans-national information monopolies and communication companies which operate on a large scale and control the flow of information from developing countries to these other countries and among. We find that the contents of the information circulated by the western mass media in developing countries is one sided - they distort realities and they neglect our national interest.

[excerpt]

This trans-national information monopoly in developing countries manipulate hundreds of millions of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and in the Caribbean. The United Press, the Associated Press, the Agence France Press, and Reuter (sic) between them monopolise the information flow to and from the developing countries. These different information agencies send out 33.9 million words everyday and they employ over 2,100 foreign correspondents in 304 offices in almost every country in the world. The 20 largest Latin American daily newspapers are completely controlled by these four agencies with 79% of all their news coming only from these sources.

Naturally, to this situation one of major struggle that countries like ours have to join in fighting is the struggle to establish a New International Information Order. We have to see this struggle for the New International Information Order as being very much linked up with the other struggle - the struggle or our New International economic Order which our country has been involved in fighting for over these past two years and months.

Maurice Bishop's full speech at the opening of the Media Workers Association of Free Grenada, 11 July 1981.

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