PAJ wants media complaints council

PAJ wants media complaints council

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter

Monday, March 30, 2015

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — President of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Dionne Jackson-Miller has reiterated her organisation's stance in support of a media complaints council.

The complaints council would serve as an independent body to ensure redress for members of the society who believe that they have been misrepresented in the media. These complaints could be dealt with swiftly and without necessarily resorting to court action.

"The PAJ is on record as supporting the establishment of a media complaints council," Jackson-Miller said last Wednesday at a symposium organised by the Communication Studies Department at the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville.

She said, however, that the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ), which consists of media house owners, are opposed to it on the basis that complaints should be handled in a matter deemed suitable by the individual media houses.

"...That's (implementation of complaints council and standards) actually a very live discussion taking place now," said Jackson-Miller.

Currently, media practitioners are guided by codes of ethics such as those laid out by the PAJ.

On Wednesday Jackson-Miller reinforced the view that in this evolving media landscape, students preparing to join the profession, existing practitioners and her association will have to change in order to add value.

"I can't tell you what the future holds for journalism, but I certainly believe there is a future and we will be there every step of the way. ...More and more... to deliver value as a communications professional, you (are going to) have to be talking about the thinking role, the analytical role. It can't be just about churning out basic information," said the PAJ president.

She urged the students not to limit themselves by merely focusing on specialist roles as they enter the profession and warned them that they may also be regarded with contempt for their work by members of the public.

"You are going to find when you go out into the world that there can be a lot of contempt for journalists because it's felt that some of us don't do our jobs well enough; we don't prepare well enough, we don't do our homework, we don't do our research, we are not doing a good enough job," she said.

"The only way to rise above that is by the excellence of your work and the integrity of your actions. People know when as a professional your integrity is of the highest. Once people start to deal with you over a period of time, issues like that become clear and they'll know that you are somebody who can't be bought. That's something that's very important for you to develop as a professional in any kind of environment, but certainly in media as well," Jackson-Miller added.

She said that the checks and balances required in the profession will always be important and the PAJ takes a "broad approach" to protecting press freedom.

Jackson-Miller, who is also an attorney-at-law, said that the media are important not as entities in and of themselves but as watchdogs in a democratic society.

The PAJ, she said, was instrumental in discussions that led to the reform of the Defamation Law to further those efforts.

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