PAJ knocks Holness
Thursday, December 08, 2011
THE Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) has taken prime minister Andrew Holness to task over statements that he made recently, which the PAJ said were potentially threatening to media workers.
At a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) meeting in Manchester last week, the prime minister, who is also leader of the JLP, drew the ire of media workers and other observers when he declared that the local media could not be trusted to present the party's message.
At the time, the prime minister took a swipe at a news report carried by Television Jamaica (TVJ) and disclosed that the JLP was moving to social media to get its message out to Jamaicans.
Holness continued his verbal attack on Monday when he told party supporters in Portland that they should not be surprised if the local media chose not to report on aspects of his presentation. The prime minister's comments were mild when compared to those uttered on the same platform by West Portland Member of Parliament, Daryl Vaz who chided TVJ for pulling a JLP advertisement, which the station said was being reviewed by its lawyers to avoid legal challenges.
In the letter to the prime minister, PAJ president Jenni Campbell said that the association had taken note of the negative public utterances against journalists and the veiled threats against media workers by JLP supporters at public meetings.
"The PAJ takes note of the negative public utterances from your political platform against journalists and the veiled threats against media workers by your supporters at public meetings," the news release stated.
"The PAJ is aware of instances in the not too distant past where platform comments have resulted in attacks on journalists. While we respect the right of every individual to criticise the media the vitriol that has come from the Jamaica Labour Party platform in Portland and Manchester is unacceptable and has put media workers at risk as they perform a legitimate and necessary function of providing the public with information," the PAJ said.
The PAJ advised the prime minister that it was prepared to take its concerns to regional and international organisations.
"We wish to state clearly that should this pattern continue or if a single journalist is attacked the PAJ will swiftly seek the assistance of its regional and international partners including the International Press Institute, the International Federation of Journalists, the Inter-American Press Association and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers to ensure that your administration is reminded of Jamaica's enviable record of press freedom and the sanctions which can be brought against a government which threatens the safety of media workers," the PAJ said.
On Tuesday, the RJR Communications Group, the parent company of TVJ announced that the telephone numbers, email addresses and Blackberry contact details of some of its managers were electronically released to members of the public by the JLP's young professional arm, Generation 2000 (G2K).
The company claimed G2K's move was in protest over the station's decision to pull a controversial JLP commercial.
However, G2K has denied that it publicised private contact information for managers at the RJR Group. In a news release, G2K President Delano Seiveright said that the organisation directed those concerned about perceived bias by the RJR Group to communicate those concerns via email and or by telephone to the RJR Group managing director as well as to the group's head of news and sports.
Seiveright maintained that the numbers sent out were publicly available office numbers and emails assigned to the RJR Group.
Late yesterday, the young professional arm of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), the Patriots also expressed grave disappointment at the prime minister's statements.
The Patriots said that the criticism has reached a point whereby some journalists are now being heckled and harassed at political meetings of the JLP.
According to the Patriots, such actions constitute a dangerous threat to democracy and a risk to the personal safety of journalists.
"It is a sad day for Jamaica when a prime minister, and especially one who claims to have brought a new and different approach to politics, has made attacking the free press, his first preoccupation and the target of political attacks on the campaign trail," the Patriots said yesterday.
The Patriots said that the Prime Minister's recent platform comments were inappropriate and unbecoming of the leader of a democratic country.
General secretary of the Patriots, Wayne Gentles said that the group was also concerned that Holness had not seen it fit to condemn the actions of JLP affiliate Generation 2000, which has launched a campaign of media harassment by publicly circulating the personal contact information of some media personnel, encouraging persons to call and criticise them.
The Patriots said that it has reports that during the prime minister's address to the JLP's mass meeting in Port Antonio earlier this week, media practitioners were heckled and even threatened by JLP supporters. This followed Holness' pronouncement that the media cannot be trusted to report positive messages, the Patriots said.
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