'Do not be muzzled,' pastor tells journalists

'Do not be muzzled,' pastor tells journalists

Monday, January 25, 2021

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THE local media community has been urged to operate without fear or favour, and to do so with integrity and professionalism.

Journalists were given that charge yesterday by senior pastor of Hope Gospel Assembly Reverend Dr Peter Garth at a church service marking the start of the Press Association of Jamaica's (PAJ) annual National Journalism Week of activities.

Speaking on the theme, 'Safeguarding press freedom in a pandemic', Garth rejected any attempt by the society, or those with power, to muzzle the media and the Church.

He argued that the Church and media practitioners must be integrous and fearless in their messages, regardless of popular opinion or the stance of those in positions of power.

“We will not flee, we will not run away from the issues that confront us in Jamaica — and there are several issues that need to come to the fore. Church and media must stand out there to make sure that we do not flee...but also, we will not fear when persons attack us. Our job speaks for itself,” declared Garth.

He stressed that these institutions must be courageous.

“We must allow the press to function. There are some powerful persons out there; sometimes they give cards that you can use at places where you can sit and enjoy the beaches in Jamaica, [but] if you say something that you do not like they sometimes ask you to turn in that card. The press is not for sale, the Church is not for sale, and no matter what individuals do, these are organisations that will stand until that day,” said Garth.

The senior clergyman argued that Christians, when they live up to the full potential of their faith, have defended the weak and the vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society.

“Only when journalists are given the space to operate freely to observe, ask questions and report, to freely investigate without fear of arbitrary reprisal, can a nation, can Jamaica be confident that decision-makers will be held to the highest standards...Continue to do so,” he stated, pointing to the work of the local media.

In his remarks, president of the PAJ George Davis pointed out that journalists are able to practise their craft here in a way which is the envy of most of the world.

“We salute the men and women, heroes of this vocation on whose backs and broad shoulders press freedom has been built,” said Davis as he also commended legislators for creating an enabling environment for the profession. Jamaica now ranks sixth among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

The index is published annually by the French non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders and evaluates the level of freedom available to the media globally.

— Alphea Saunders

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