Those ill-fated Alkaline, Vybz Kartel videos

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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Two controversial music videos featuring gun-toting individuals planning violence and other criminal acts, both exposed within two days of each other by this newspaper, might be coincidence but definitely cause for alarm.

The first video featuring dancehall artiste Alkaline, and the second entitled Vybz Kartel, Masicka – Infrared (official video) are clear indications of the quagmire in which we as a nation find ourselves.

We obviously have a vested interest in the right of free expression by the citizens of this country, but we can never condone any act which can influence, directly or indirectly, the committal of any action which may hurt others in the society.

Freedom of expression, we believe, gives one the right to express ideas and opinions freely through speech, writing and other forms of communication, but without causing harm to the person, character and/or reputation of any individual. This is a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Moreover, the subject of the videos was callous and insensitive at a time when the country is reeling from violent criminal acts and a skyrocketing murder toll that have left the nation on edge.

We note that Mr Earlan Bartlett, Alkaline to his many fans, a very popular and influential local artiste, as well as the music director of the video in question, Jay Will Films, have made a useful first step in offering their apologies.

Mr Bartlett, in his apology, stated: “With respect to the situation surrounding the video, Afterall, which was released on May 18, 2017, and directed by Jay Will, the artiste reserves the right to creative licence in expressing the contents of the song artistically with the relevant props.

“However, we do understand the position of the JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force], considering the rise in crime and violence in the country. The management, therefore, would like to apologise to the JCF and/or anyone who may have been affected by the contents portrayed in the video. No ill intentions were meant or directed towards any member of the JCF, and we are in full support of the fight against crime and violence in Jamaica.”

It is, of course, unfortunate that Mr Bartlett and his management team could not have foreseen the deleterious implications of their actions on the wider society before turning on their cameras and rushing to promulgate what, to us, seems to be another obvious attempt to gain popularity.

We can't help but wonder if the apology would have come had the Observer not brought this matter into the glare of public scrutiny. And we certainly hope that it was sincere and not merely motivated by the need to keep Alkaline on the Sumfest line-up. Still, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Our entertainers hold a special place among us, and the quicker they realise that they have a strong responsibility to contribute to the well-being of our society the better off we will all be.

There is nothing wrong with attaining star power, but now we hope that others will learn from this unfortunate video episode and temper star power with appropriate and responsible deeds.

We await the findings of the investigations by the JCF and the Firearms Licensing Authority regarding the apparent use of guns, police uniform, and patrol car as props in the videos.




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