Caricom Govts to work with entertainment industry to end violent, denigrating content

CARICOM Chairman, President Dr Irfaan Ali, with Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell

Leaders in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) have committed to working with stakeholders in the Region’s creative industry specifically the entertainment sector to bring an end to the promotion of crime and violence and instead, spread positivity.

This decision was taken by Heads of Government during the recently concluded Caricom meeting held in Guyana earlier this week.

In reaffirming the right to freedom of expression and to public speech, the Caricom Heads of Government strongly condemned the development, presence, tolerance, or acceptance of violent, anti-social music and social media content that denigrate women and encourage or promote or support the use of violence, guns, and other anti-social behaviour, particularly targeted to the Region’s youth.

In a statement from the Caricom Secretariat, it was noted that the regional leaders affirmed their support for engaging with young people in the creative economy, including the entertainment and music industry and the sporting industry to develop, support and spread across the Region positive content to offset the negative impact of anti-social, violent, and criminal behaviour which some elements in that sector promote and support.

Having recognised the serious, significant and chronic negative developmental impact that crime and violence is having on Member States, the Heads of Government committed to working with all sectors and institutions, including civil society, academia, labour, churches, creatives, law enforcement, the Judiciary, political parties, employers and businesses, and external partners to implement all of the measures set out in the Declaration on Crime and Violence as a public health safety issue – a set of actions agreed upon during a symposium in Trinidad last April.

Caricom Chairman, President Dr Irfaan Ali said at a press conference at the end of the three-day conference that tackling crime and ensuring security in the Caribbean now includes dealing with emerging trends such as the violent lyrics in music coming out of the Region.

He said leaders had to look at “…how we can strike a balance in ensuring that the creativity of our young people is not lost, but that creativity is captured in a more positive way; packaged in a more positive way”.

Meanwhile, Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, also speaking on this issue at the Caricom closing press conference on Wednesday, noted that while this topic might be controversial, regional leaders would not shy away from dealing with it.

According to PM Mitchell, the Caribbean has produced some of the world’s most renowned entertainers, whose lyrics were always inspiring, uplifting and entertaining but never promoted, encouraged or glorified violence and never denigrated women – something which he says has changed with the content being put out today.

“We have to accept that there has emerged a trend in our entertainment sector… more recently in the context of the Caribbean, Southern Caribbean – in the case of Trinidad, Trinibad; in the case of Jamaica, Dancehall music; in the case of Black America, Rap and Hip Hop – that glorifies violence, that glorifies criminality.”

“We’re not here to say that you don’t have the right to your cultural expression, artistic expression or poetic licence. But our society has to, again, determine what are our values. We have to ascertain if promoting violence, glorifying criminality is to be normalised, is to become mainstream. Heads are clear it is not, and so we are unreserved in our condemnation. And we as a society must, therefore, work with the enormous talent that we have in the Region in our artistes, in our musicians, in our entertainers, in our sportsmen and women, in our social media influencers to promote and develop positive content,” the Grenadian leader posited.

Consequently, PM Mitchell stated that regional leaders have committed to ensuring the deliberate, strategic and resourceful commencement of this process of engagements across all spectra on this issue with the aim of using creatives, sportsmen and women, and entertainers in the Caribbean to return an entertainment industry that is positive, inspiring, and motivating.

“We’re not here to talk censorship, we’re not here to curtail anyone’s right to speak or to say what they want. What we’re saying is that we need to encourage positive, inspiring content that looks after our young people; that encourages them to appreciate that you don’t need to die at 20 or 21 years. If they keep dying at 20 or 21 years, there will be no Caribbean civilisation in 50 or 60 years,” the Grenadian leader stated.