photo: Pixabay

PHILIPSBURG / HILVERSUM – “The troubled political situation mid the destructions done by hurricane Irma, make the presence of independent media on St. Maarten more important than ever.” This is the opinion of the organization behind the Dutch benefit event ‘Nieuwspoort for St. Maarten’.

Thursday several prominent Dutch politicians and journalist gathered during the benefit event in The Hague to talk about aid or the media on the island. One editorial newspaper office was completely destroyed by hurricane Irma, while the remaining – and only –  newspaper on St. Maarten is struggling with a huge drop in advertising revenues. Other media also struggle with problems.

By Laura Bijnsdorp

“The Dutch government and other organizations assist in the reconstruction of the affected islands, but local media are not part of this support program. Therefore, they depend on private initiatives such as the benefit event that was held Thursday in Nieuwspoort, The Hague.

“We’re going to send knowledge to St. Maarten, not a bag of money”

“Sponsorship, donations and ticket sales have so far delivered almost 27.000 US dollars, but we’re not going to send a bag of money tot St. Maarten, that would be a strange thing to do”, says event spokesman Jan-Willem Wits.

“We asked the local media what is needed and they asked for more knowledge and expertise on a level. So we will also provide training, marketing layouts, workshops and send specialists over.”

Watchdog journalism
Both St. Maarten chief editors Haar and De Windt agree that there is a lack of investigative journalism on the island. “We need more qualified journalists on the island, that are really capable of writing in-depth news stories”, expressed Haar. He adds: “without this, the media cannot function as an effective mechanism to enforce government accountability.”

Afraid of media
Another issue that all media has encountered for many years is the lack of willingness of those on Sint Maarten to speak to journalists on the record. Radio host of PJD2 Radio ,Grace BlijdenBlijden, is confronted with this daily: “People seem afraid to speak their minds, because they are afraid of the consequences.”

“It is a small community, which makes it hard to research and report certain news-items. No one wants to step on their neighbors toes.” Steve Cyrillien, who is in charge of gathering news for PJD2 Radio concludes.