Dr Dayton Campbell has struck a terrible blow against press freedom
Dr Dayton Campbell

Just four days shy of his first anniversary as president of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), Mr Milton Walker would hardly have imagined himself doing battle — twice in five months — with, of all entities, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

From one end of the globe to the next, professional organisations of journalists, like the PAJ, typically fret about accursed governments doing injury to press freedom and those who practise it. Rarely is the Opposition the culprit.

On Sunday, September 3, 2023, Dr Dayton Campbell, general secretary of the PNP, struck a terrible blow against press freedom and the right of Jamaicans to choose to work for the Government and, by extension, the people of Jamaica.

Intoxicated by the exuberance of his own verbosity and drunken by the adulation of cheering supporters at his party's St Andrew East Central Constituency Conference, Dr Campbell accused Nationwide News Network of being an "incubator for the Jamaica Labour Party".

For nothing but that he disagrees with the radio station's news output — which, we insist, he has a right to — Dr Campbell uses a large and dangerous brush to paint journalists, caring not whether that will affect their well-being.

This is one time where the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," is seriously wrong. Mr Campbell has put a bullseye on the backs of every journalist who decides to work for the Government of Jamaica, making them a target for the loonies among us.

With the vaunted title of doctor before Mr Campbell's name, one is entitled to assume in him a level of erudition that would have prevented the PNP general secretary from catering to the lowest common denominator. But, alas! This is not to be.

We are completely at one with Mr Walker when he says: "Such remarks, coming from a prominent political figure, have the potential to place Nationwide journalists at risk of attacks by political activists and party supporters. The PAJ calls upon Dr Dayton Campbell to retract his harmful statements and promote an environment where journalists can work free from fear of reprisal…

"By putting journalists in harm's way, Dr Campbell's comments are a blatant attack on press freedom and represent a grave escalation of assaults on the principles of a free and independent press… a fundamental pillar of any democratic society."

From his lofty position, Dr Campbell cannot see that one needs only replace Nationwide News Network with RJRGleaner, Television Jamaica, CVM-Television, IRIE-FM, Loop News, or Jamaica Observer to see the folly of his ways.

This is a bad look for the Opposition and, once again, Mr Mark Golding, its leader, must rise to the occasion and make it abundantly clear to his officers and members that this dangerous and foolish act must not stand.

It was only in May that the PAJ had to condemn an attack on the press at the PNP headquarters when a supporter threatened a woman journalist with rape, while another was verbally attacked. At that time, the deputy general secretary, Mr Dexroy Martin, criticised reporters for wearing green clothing to that venue.

We wonder what is it that is in the water that some politicians drink? The mere mouthing of platitudinous apologies no longer works. The culprits need to be suspended, or worse.

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