To whom it may concern

So if you read the blog on a regular basis, you will know that I very often have referred to the Thursday Talk gossip column in the Gleaner as being a one of the few sources of real news in Jamaica.  I’ve also made no secret here of the fact that I am a frequent reader of the Mark Wignall column.  Imagine my surprise then when I tried to log onto the website for the Jamaica Gleaner and the website for the Jamaica Observer yesterday morning, and found myself unable to do so.

Now the last time I made an allegation that the Jamaica Gleaner was blocking my access to their website I pointed refused to state it conclusively and didn’t provide very much evidence that they were blocking me beyond my outline of the allegation.

This time is a little different. As the allegation I am making now is a little bit more far-fetched so I’ll phrase it as an opinion just for balance. I believe that both the Jamaica Gleaner and Jamaica Observer, working together or of their own separate volition, sought to block my access to their respective websites.

Now at best I’m considered  a critical thinker but at worst that can be considered cynical so if someone else had made that claim I would tend to believe it was more likely that: a) they were mistaken, b) seeking to promote themselves, or c) perhaps suffering from “delusions of grandeur.”

In fact the first time this happened, when the Gleaner had blocked my access I thought their website was simply down for the day. When over 6 hours had passed and it wasn’t back up I became suspicious. Even when it became apparent that they were blocking my specific IP address I found it difficult to believe they would take such a step against what was then a new blog with less than 1,000 hits.

So then, as now, I performed several tests so as to troubleshoot the problem – troubleshooting is a process of elimination.

The bottom line is this: When I visited the Jamaica Gleaner website from my normal ISP connection to the internet, which generates a unique IP address, I was unable to access their page. Yet when I visited their website on another computer I was able to see their site – which eliminated the possibility that the site was down for all computers attempting to see it. Only mine was unable to see their website.

When I visited their website via another connection on my same computer I was able to pull up their site – which eliminated the possibility that my computer software or hardware was the problem.

So the problem only arises when I visit their website on my computer from a specific IP address. That only leaves the possibility that a) My ISP is blocking the connection or b) their server is blocking the connection. I called my ISP and after transferring to the appropriate technical support department, I was able to determine that they had not blocked my connection to the Jamaica Gleaner’s site. As they are governed by a US federal agency called the FCC, I have no reason to believe they lied to me. I further have no reason to believe my ISP lied to me as I asked them about a problem I had accessing another fairly popular website (about 15,000 users per day in the Alexa page rank system) and they readily confessed that they were aware of that problem and looking to fix it. The fact that they admitted one problem bolstered their credibility with me.

So at 1:47am on Sept 11th when both the Jamaica Observer and the Jamaica Gleaner were blocking my access; I was able to troubleshoot a couple things even more rigorously.

I tested my connection speed to ensure that my connection to the internet was not deteriorated. You can click here to test yours too and see your IP address for yourself.

I also visited several websites hosted in the US; and several hosted in Jamaica. Ex. The JPSCo site is totally secured, I didn’t know that until around 2:00am on Sept 11.

I also visited both the Gleaner and Observer via other connections on my same computer; and I was able to access their sites using other IP addresses. Around that time I tweeted my inability access both their sites.

I then recruited a friend to visit their sites; and I used several proxy servers to check it out at a later stage as well. All of these subsequent times I was able to access their site, yet the sites continued to NOT come up when I used my normal IP address.

Finally the error in my browser was different than what normally happens when I visit website that is temporarily inoperable. In Firefox it noted the connection had been “interrupted. (See screenshot)

Connection Interrupted screenshot
Connection Interrupted screenshot

And in the recently released Google Chrome browser it showed my some of the back and forth communication between the servers in a small status bar in the lower left corner. (Small side note: Google Chrome is a really cool browser in terms of providing more information that other browsers if you’re geeky and into that stuff.)

I also visited a website I knew to be down in Chrome and Firefox (see screenshots below) to demonstrate the different feedback from when a site is blocking just my IP address. There is some more technical stuff I could get into, but I detailed enough so far.  Additionally there is one piece of information that is material which I can’t publish yet — but let’s say I was on the mind of people behind the Gleaner and Observer this week.Thus, I make the above claim with a high degree of confidence. The Gleaner and the Observer blocked my access to their websites last night, yet as of this writing I’m able to access them both.

Note it says "Address not found" vs. "Connection interrupted"
Note it says"Address not found" vs. "Connection interrupted"
Error message in Chrome for down sites, didn't come up for blocked sites.
Error message in Chrome for down sites, didn't come up for sites blocking me.

So let’s ask why they would go through the trouble to do this. I think it’s to “mess with me.” It’s not to block me from ever being able to access their site content and thereafter critique it. Anyone savvy enough to block one IP address has to understand it’s not an insurmountable obstacle; so it’s just to tweak me.

But if you put this action in context, it is a really reprehensible act. Firstly, it is petty. The Jamaica Gleaner has been referred to by the New York Times as “Jamaica’s leading newspaper” or “Jamaica’s newspaper of record;” as the NY Times is the one  of the US’s newspapers of record. That is a high standard – the Gleaner should be the crème de le crème. This behavior is decidedly inconsistent with the highest standard of professionalism and ethics. At best it is petty/trifling and juvenile, but at worst it is a display of an instinct for censorship which is ALARMING. When you are a 100-year-old plus newspaper with a website that has a traffic rank of 70, 616 according to Alexa, you really don’t need to harass or seek to censor a blogger in NY with almost 5,000 hits total. When a government official is instinctually censorious it’s a bad thing but it’s no surprise or disaster. When a newspaper as an institution displays this kind of censorial instinct  — it is a CALAMITY and  a profoundly sad statement.

As for the Jamaica Observer, in their defense they are not a serious institution of journalism to begin with. It is a newsletter to protect and defend the commercial interests of one man — its chairman. It gives no pretense of editorial integrity, no pretense that the ownership doesn’t dictate the news perspective. Truthfully, while I follow the Observer’s editorial content & columnists, I rarely peruse their “news” section. And when there is a Dunkley (no relation), Sheil, or Williams byline (and one more lady they just made an environmental editor) I will peruse those articles. But otherwise the Jamaica Observer may be shocked to discover that Butch Stewart’s travel itinerary and self-interested “thumbs ups” don’t materially inform my day.

So anyway, back to speculating as to their motives — I think they did this to tweak me. They’re letting me know that dem a watch me, a watch dem, a watch me, a watch dem. So let me say:

To whom it may concern:

Of course I know members of the Jamaican media read this blog, I worked hard to achieve that. Otherwise this would be an enormous exercise in futility, now wouldn’t it?

Going forward, please refrain from unethical and unprofessional behavior.  In future, if you want to grab my attention; it may be simpler to leave a comment.


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12 thoughts on “To whom it may concern

  1. lol…the pathetic inconsequential defensive maneuvers of the indefensible Jamaican media…

    and it’s not only the minds of the Gleaner and Observer editors you’ve been on. The Gen Sec of the PNP yesterday announced that he wanted the self-imposed gag order lifted because journalists were beginning to make comparisons between the PNP and Mugabe in Zimbabwe…

  2. @ Goat Mouth: “Who da fits, let them wear it!” The Kenyan party and Mugabe were doing the exact same thing, stuffing ballot boxes in friendly communities to extinguish opposition votes in less sure communities. In Kenya some precincts saw 100%+ turnout.

    @ Veerle: I do wear it as a badge of honor, but it does diminish them so much. I hope I’m wrong too, can’t see ho at this point though.

    @ Stunner: It is a conspiracy theory, but I’m just laying out the facts as I know them and as the evidence supports and publishing my conclusions based on those facts. But maybe they did it to make me look paranoid. As many Americans are fond of saying “If you think they’re all out to get you, it might mean you’re paranoid; but it doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”

  3. Although it seems to me that this is a lot of trouble to go to just to block your access to their site, anything is possible if they really want to I suppose….Seems you’re not their favourite blogger…

  4. no, no, it’s “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you…”

    well, i did wonder at what point the Jamaican media would begin to respond to your critiques DD–but who knew it would take this lowly form–

  5. i really doubt this is what’s happening … no way would either be looking to block you, and collaborating on it at that lol … not sure about the observer, but i know the gleaner’s websites have connectivity issues (i.e. whoever they host with). for e.g., i’m in jamaica and right now i can’t access via my cwjamaica connection … but using the same computer and i switch to my FLOW connection and it comes up just fine. try again tonight with cwj and it just might work.

    i’ve had other issues in the recent past too … like not being able to access … but comes up just fine.

    so i’ve concluded that they’re having on-going dns issues .. one mis-configured server can cause all sorts of problems, depending on which isp you use blah blah blah

    that aside, how would they even know what ip address you’re logging on from? it’s virtually impossible for a website to tie an ip address back to a specific person .. unless you submitted info via a form on their website or something like that.

    and the observer lol … they don’t even have someone who’s capable of telling you the rates to advertise on their website … much less figuring out how to block a particular ip address. the observer has never taken the web seriously. simply put, THEY HAVE NO CLUE. believe me!

  6. @ Sandman:
    I hear you and hope you’re right. That would mean that both the Observer and Gleaner were down simultaneously; both having DNS issues. Further, the very first thing I did was pull up their websites via a proxy server and move around. So within 60 seconds literally I was on their sites; once I saw that both were up I performed all the other tests ending up on a different proxy server looking at their sites again and still being unable to access it normally.

    As far as how they would know, I doubt there are many people who have been to the Sept 4, 2007 (Day after election) and Sept 9, 2007 (Sunday after election) issues of the Gleaner on Saturday as I was when writing a recent post about Portia. Too many people may not have been visiting the Charles Ross piece in the Observer either. So due to the fact I access so many low/no traffic pages, I may be tipping them off to my IP address by blogging about these pages afterwards.

    I have seen traffic stats systems which logged all visitors’ IP addresses and told me the time the unique user visited; country of origin; number of pages they viewed, etc.

    I questioned it too as it was both their sites where this happened. Today I tried to visit one American site and got a “connection failed error message;” so then that message was repeated as I tried to visit Google and the Drudge Report. At that point I knew my connection to the net was in question and soon had it confirmed. In the situation above the evidence was different, hence my different conclusion.

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