As part of the Caribbean Death Penalty Research project, an analysis was conducted of four newspapers from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados with an online presence. The newspapers selected were the Trinidad Express and the Trinidad Guardian in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Nation News and Barbados Today in Barbados. News stories which offered comment on the death penalty were analysed – and the themes which emerged are laid out in this and the following sections.
Regarding newspaper readership, Storr (2014) noted that circulation is high in both countries. The editor of the Trinidad Express reported that the country had one of the highest per capita consumption of newspapers in the Caribbean. Regarding access to the internet, Storr writes that in 2012 internet penetration was highest in Barbados, at 71.7%, and lowest in Trinidad and Tobago, at 55.2%.
Overall, the analysis suggested that the editorial line of the four newspapers in the sample take a broadly anti-death penalty position, or certainly against the mandatory death penalty. However, within this, many issues emerged, and in addition to the general editorial position of newspapers, various columns and articles appeared in these titles which advocated strongly for the use of the death penalty.
There was little evidence of the ‘innocence frame’ noted in a shift in public discourse by Baumgartner et al (2008). One Nation News editorial from Barbados (11 September 2015) referenced it, but it was not a common argument:
‘When courts make mistakes and order innocent people to be executed, we can’t bring the wrongfully convicted back to life after execution. Scores of people have been exonerated after they were first found guilty of murder. The finality of the death sentence prevents us from telling the convicted we are sorry.’