It was a brief stalemate, lasting about one month. In early December, the Government of Belize issued a statement explaining it was giving Great Belize Productions/Channel 5 the official cold shoulder. No more access to government officials, civil servants and workers for stories. No invites to press conferences. No more press releases and media alerts.
“The agreement to talk, according to the Prime Minister, was reached yesterday, Tuesday, after Mai wrote him a letter, and former Channel 5 director Stewart Krohn, former president of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), called on the CBU’s behalf, offering to serve as mediator in the dispute between the government and Channel 5/Great Belize Productions.”
It kind of warms my heart that Mai issued the olive branch. One could interpret the move this way: Mai, believing it was crucial that Belizeans have access to the information and newsmakers that the GOB was barring, decided to step up, whether she was ready to concede any of the GOB’s points or not. That may be part of the story, but practical matters most likely played a big role.
Rumor has it that the GOB boycott was leaking over into the private sector, with some advertisers opting to follow the political leadership’s lead — whether on principal because they agreed with the GOB, or to earn points through a show of solidarity. There’s no way to confirm this, of course. And no way to know what exactly was said in the meeting between Mai and Prime Minister Dean Barrow. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the PM’s Coney Drive office!
The Reporter ran a story on Dec. 31, announcing the meeting had led to the desired results for both sides. The ban would end. On Jan. 4 came the official word in a GOB press release (and a brief article in The Guardian, the ruling United Democratic Party organ):
“Cabinet has agreed to lift the ban and reinstate normal relations with Great Belize Productions/Channel 5 on the commitment of Channel 5 to be visibly fair and impartial.”
Mai, quoted in The Reporter, said:
“The integrity of Channel 5 news will not be compromised.”
I don’t know to what degree this whole thing resonated with the average Belizean. But, the last paragraph in The Reporter piece struck me pretty hard:
“Some media houses were silent on the issue and CEO Mai characterized their silence as ‘tragic.’ She said everyone in the media should have been concerned when the government suspended normal relations with Channel 5.”