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Friday, August 27, 2004 - Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony says the presence of a newly-launched website linking Eastern Caribbean newspapers will help bridge the gap crated by the dearth of news from the smaller islands of the sub-region on the Internet.


ECNETNEWS.COM is designed by its regional creators as “a new website liking newspapers of the Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS) sub-region into an on-line, up-to-the-minute forum for accurate exchange of news and debates on issues of primary concern to development and the region.”


Addressing the official launching of the new website at the OECS Headquarters at The Morne on Friday morning, the Prime Minister said that as “a recent convert” to the Internet, he has been “perusing the World Wide Web every morning in search of up-to-date news on what’s happening around the world.”


The Prime Minister, who is also Minister for Information and Broadcasting, said he “always goes first to the website that provides news from Caribbean newspapers across the Caricom region.”


He noted, however, that “even though there were a few newspapers from a few islands, St. Lucia included, there is a noticeable shortage of news from the member-states of (OECS).”


Leslie Pierre, Editor of the Grenadian Voice newspaper and a prime mover behind the new initiative, explained that the ECNETNEWS.COM website is intended “to complement the existing weekly publication of newspapers in the Eastern Caribbean and reduce the gap in public information and awareness on Caribbean integration and development issues for regional users, the Caribbean Diaspora and the world at large.”


Mr Pierre said “links are provided to the individual sites of participating newspapers, other Caribbean newspapers and sites.”


Interactive in focus, he added that “ECNETNEWS.COM is also expected to include a number of elements and news products to satisfy the thirst of all categories of users.”


At the level of the media industry, Mr Pierre said, “ECNETNEWS.COM engenders a new focus in capacity building based on the need for new skills in on-line journalism, management and marketing of journalistic products and services.”                     


Prime Minister Anthony, who is also the current Chairman of the OECS Authority (Heads of Government) told participants at the launching that the initiative by the ten sub-regional newspapers to establish this new website “will remedy the dearth of information from the OECS on the net.”


Preaching the virtues of the Internet, the Prime Minister said that since his conversion to computerisation he has always sought to encourage persons with computers at home to use the Internet, “because the ’Net is a great equalizer.”


The Prime Minister, on behalf of his OECS colleagues, thanked the participating newspapers for their decision to establish their own website, saying it will certainly enhance “not only the dissemination of information, but also the exchange of news within the sub-region.”


The opening ceremony, which took place at the OECS Secretariat, was also attended and addressed by the Advisor on Communication and Information to UNESCO’s Caribbean Office, Jocelyn Josiah.


Ms Josiah said the launching of ECNETNEWS “sets us in the region firmly on the path of technological development for information-poor societies.”


Noting that “the new information technologies have truly conquered time and space” Ms Josiah said they had also succeeded in “making distance irrelevant” when it comes to communicating information around the globe.


She said the new information technologies have also made communication “easier and cheaper”, which would therefore continue to make information more accessible to more people in more countries, in the shortest possible time.


The UNESCO Regional Adviser said the launching of the new website was “a seminal event and a milestone for Caribbean media” and indicated that UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communications (IPDC), which funded the project to the tune of US$40,000, was “highly impressed” with its objectives and looked forward to its success.


Ms Josiah said she hoped the new sub-regional newspapers’ website “will become a springboard” for similar endeavours in the future and urged that the region’s “teaching institutions make use of it” as a tool in the learning and communication process.


The launching ceremony, which coincided with an orientation workshop on the ECNETNEWS, was chaired by the Grenadian Voice Editor, who played a leading role in coordinating the new service.


The participants, who came from the territories and newspapers represented on the ECNETNEWS website, discussed issues under the theme “Convergence and the Future of Eastern Caribbean Print Media.”


The workshop also included a demonstration of the website by Grenadian journalist Odette Campbell and an interactive presentation on “Media Convergence, Online Journalism and its Impact on Small Print Media” by Dr Mwangi.


Other topics addressed included “The Way Forward for Small Prime Media” and “An Eastern Caribbean Vision for ECNETNEWS.COM”.


Other officials attending the ceremony included Senior Communications Officer at the OECS Secretariat Kendol Morgan, Head of the OECS Economic Affairs Secretariat, Mr Randy Cato and Dr Sam Mwangi of UNESCO, who is seconded to the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communications (CARIMAC).


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