Evolving Newspapers & the Shaping of an Extradition: Jamaica on the Cusp of Change
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The evolution and impact of journalism in the developing world remains largely under-explored, especially in the Caribbean. This case study explores the role of the 21st century daily newspaper in Jamaica, during a period where the country endured its first widespread national crisis in almost three decades. This thesis deconstructs the coverage of Jamaica’s two daily newspapers and the role of civil society during the nine months prior to the extradition of alleged transnational drug dealer Christopher Coke to the United States. The extradition coverage of Coke, whom the American government deemed, one of the most wanted men in the world, highlighted growing concerns about the island’s diplomacy and its place in the global environment. It gave the news media an opportunity to focus on incidences of corruption, party-garrison clientelistic relationships and facilitate debates about good governance and a new vision for the island. In the aftermath of the Coke extradition, there have been questions about influence and who played what roles in the resolution of the crisis. This thesis considers the influence of the media and of wider civil society activism, specifically the way the newspapers and civic organizations shaped the extradition, opened a space for dialogue and created a shift in the nature of media/government relations on the island. An in-depth content analysis of the newspaper coverage leading up to the extradition forms the empirical basis for study. This is supplemented by interviews with journalists, academics and civic agents whose voices helped shape the Coke debate in the newspapers. This crisis provided a unique opportunity to assess the news agenda on the island along with the perspectives of community voices as they engaged to influence a peaceful resolution. The newspaper analysis of the extradition highlighted the political and social complexity of the island, in particular, the rampant political corruption, extreme social inequality, commonplace civil disobedience and criminality. The extradition revealed that there were obstacles to the cohesion of civil society groups in Jamaica. They were hampered by class and income disparities, political allegiances and questions of faith. These underlying concepts, along with newsroom culture, press-politics relationships, self-censorship, newspaper patronage, education, economic structures, and cultural identity can all be understood not by their individual meanings but as ways in which power is shaping the socio-political landscape of the island. The newspaper coverage of the extradition battle also exposed flaws in the island’s political and social fabric, this elevated government’s predicament from a routine extradition warrant to an armed conflict. This thesis reinforces the role of daily newspapers in ensuring governmental transparency and providing a space that facilitates differing views which ultimately allows democracy to work. The findings from the thesis contribute to an understanding of journalism outside of the context of the United States/ United Kingdom. It showed that in the Caribbean and especially Jamaica special considerations must be made for how socio-cultural factors impact newspaper journalism.