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Belizean Media Icon Harry Lawrence Honoured

Belizean Media Icon Harry Lawrence Honoured
September 27
12:05 2019

Thursday, September 26, 2019 –

He is the publisher of one of Belize’s most popular and widely-circulated newspapers – the Reporter – and Harry Lawrence was one of the Belizeans singled out and honoured for their contributions to the development of Belize in their particular field of work. Mr. Harry earned the Order of Distinction – the second highest honour in Belize – given for his contribution over more than 50 years to Belizean journalism.

Each week, we read his analytical views in the Reporter’s Editorial, which often times deals with national issues. In a conversation with our newsroom this week, he shared that he tries to offer this kind of perspective because many times people become emotional when faced with national issues and take sides based on that emotion. This is where he feels his newspaper company plays a vital role in offering the relevant information and in a way that affords people to form objective conclusions.

“We should be able to reason. A lot of our perspective is based on emotion,” he said. “An independent newspaper is essential for any democracy. Any country that wants to remain free has to have a newspaper that is independent. The newspaper has to be free, has to be pro-Belize. That’s my life’s work.”

Born Henry Llewellyn Lawrence, Mr. Harry is the third child of Henry and Lucille Lawrence. He began his career as a teacher in San Antonio Village, Cayo, but after his father died in 1951, his teaching career ended because he needed to care for four siblings. He took up employment in Belize City as a cub reporter for the Daily Clarion, an eight page daily paper. This was the start of what would turn out to be a 50-year career as a journalist and publisher.

He explained to us that it was expensive to produce a daily paper but in those days a larger portion of the population engaged in reading the newspaper, and the businesses that existed didn’t mind investing in advertisements. It was also a lot more work to produce the paper and international news was obtained from the BBC or international newspapers.

The Clarion was destroyed during Hurricane Hattie in 1961, and Mr. Harry became the editor of the Belize Billboard, which was owned by legendary PUP co-founders Leigh Richardson and Philip Goldson. He was in charge of that paper while Richardson and Goldson served one-year sentences on political charges for sedition, and left after three years.

He went into other business when, with the help of Esso, he started a service station near the Pound Yard Bridge which he operated until 1971 when another opportunity arose for him to return to journalism. This was when he and his friend, Nestor Vasquez Sr., sought to rescue the Reporter – a weekly newspaper produced by the Belize Chamber of Commerce. The partnership dissolved but Mr. Harry continued to publish the Reporter on his own. It took several years of struggle, but eventually, it became the country’s leading newspaper. Mr. Harry was the first person to introduce the rotary offset printing press in Belize, along with computers and offset colour in the newspaper industry.

This Belizean icon has also served as a City Councilor, as President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and as Chairman of the St. John’s College Scholarship Foundation. He received the SJC Lifetime Award at the end of his nine-year chairmanship. He has also served as a Eucharistic Minister at St. Ignatius Church and was appointed as Belize’s Ambassador to the Vatican in 2010.

At 86, Mr. Harry still serves as the Reporter’s publisher and also manages Sunbrite Papers, a paper converting company which he started in 2015. He is married to Rosita Lawrence and is the father of Lisbeth Lawrence Ayuso and Harrison Lawrence.

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