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Scrutinise but remain professional, former MAJ head tells journalists

Tuesday, December 03, 2013    

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FORMER president of the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) Gary Allen has urged journalists not to relent in their efforts to scrutinise public officials, but to carry out their work with dignity and professionalism.

"I want to encourage members of my profession to remember that our key responsibility is, irrespective of who the official is and the position that the official holds, to hold that official and that person to scrutiny when they are in the public space representing us," Allen told last week's Press Association of Jamaica's Veterans' Luncheon at the J Wray & Nephew Spanish Town Road headquarters in Kingston.

"You're celebrating Journalism Week at an interesting time, at a challenging time. It is a time when you are being challenged about professionalism of journalists, you're being challenged at a time when access is an important factor in what we do -- not just access to people and not just access to officials, but the consumers' right to access and what are the boundaries of that access," he said further.

But even as he encouraged journalists to play their role in governance, Allen also stressed the importance of being professional.

"We must be dignified, we must be professional, but we must not forget that we must hold those who are accountable. That's our job irrespective of which side it is on, but don't lose your professionalism in the process," he warned.

Similar views were expressed by PAJ President Jenni Campbell, who called on journalists to unite in the face of adversity.

"We have to stand together and stand strong and ensure that we continue our duty and responsibility to the people of this country, and that we continue to deliver good service with respect and honour to ourselves and the people we represent," she said.

"This is a trying time for the press, but guess what, we have been there before and have done that a number of times and we have always endured trying times and we have many more trying times to come," said Campbell.

Allen and Campbell's comments come in the aftermath of the incident recently in which a reporter was shoved by a bodyguard of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller when he sought to question her about the re-instatement of junior transport and works minister Richard Azan, who had resigned in the Spalding Market controversy.

The veterans' luncheon this year honoured five journalists for their valuable contribution to the field in the capacity of head of news.

Franklin McKnight, founder and editor of the North Coast Times; business journalist Owen James; Janet Mowatt, RJR's first female news editor; Godfrey Barnes, JIS news editor and Wyvolyn Gager, former news editor at the Gleaner and the newspaper's first female editor-in-chief, were the awardees.

Together, the five have contributed 150 years of service to the profession.

The veterans' luncheon was part of the PAJ's celebration of National Journalism Week, which culminated with the National Journalism Awards last Friday.

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