Caribbean to Chinese media: Treat us as equal partner, not an after-thought

Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - 11:30

The government of China has given its commitment to foster and develop meaningful and productive media relations in the Caribbean and Latin Ameria.

The wording of the communique issued at the end of the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Media Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Tuesday evening, is a blueprint of hope.

It promises greater collaboration on new media platforms and shared future content exchange strategies. 

The statement was another step in formalizing the media path for the future between both regions.

This is the 3rd edition of the meeting which is meant to foster greater cooperation between the Chinese media and their Western Hemisphere counterparts.

The foundation blocks of this journey will be paved in the shadows of the superpower's economic expansion of the Belt Road initiative. 

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the region and identified media cooperation and participation as a key component to the success of the expansion.

China invited Latin American and Caribbean countries to join its "One Belt, One Road" initiative in January of 2018, as part of an agreement to deepen economic and political cooperation in a region where U.S. influence is historically strong.

While the numbers and the figures associated with the Chinese investment continue to grow exponentially in the region, the power dynamic of the Latin America and Caribbean grouping was evident at Tuesday's conference. 

The two-day conference featured over 34 speakers representing the interests of the Western and Eastern media.

Government officials from the Chinese government, Argentina's government, the Xinhua news agency and media corporations from across the region were all invited to address the forum.

Only one Caribbean representative was invited to address the conference.

Keith Campbell of the Public Broadcasting of Jamaica carried the weight if the region on his shoulders.

His delivery time was significantly shorter than his counterparts on the panel.

The organizers requested an abridged version of his delivery due to time constraints.

However, the request was not given to others on his panel.

In fact, the speaker after him presented for over 20 minutes.

But, in spite of the small window, Campbell's message echoed through the room.

His message, in the two minutes allotted, was concise and impactful, "think of us as an equal partner, not as a Caribbean afterthought."

He even challenged the organizers of the event to consider shifting the conference to a Caribbean island.

His suggestion received a round of applause from the 100 participants.

The region will continue to have an uphill battle in presenting itself as an equal partner in this grouping.

The size and economic base of the Caribbean is considerably smaller than the Latin American giant opening its doors to the Chinese superpower.

But Campbell presented a clear plan to the organizers on how to level the playing field.

He emphasized the cost of transforming the media landscape in the region from analog to digital. 

"The cost of the digital transformation is on our plate," he said.

It was a plea for assistance, whether it will be accepted, is left to be seen.

Campbell stated despite the fake news explosion, content is still king.

"We can collaborate on content and exchange stories," he added. 

The forum concluded on Tuesday evening.

The 2019 edition of the dialogue will take place in China.

As a media practitioner, I remain optimistic that organizers will include a more diverse panel truly representing the Latin American and Caribbean region.

- by Hema Ramkissoon in Buenos Aires, Argentina.