GOVERNMENT Senator Abka Fitz-Henley has chastised the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) for what he claimed is its historical and current antagonistic approach to sections of the media.
In his first major presentation on a political stage, Fitz-Henley urged the Mark Golding-led party to be careful not to damage Jamaica's rankings on the global Press Freedom Index.
Fitz-Henley delivered his warning on Sunday at a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) divisional conference in the St Elizabeth South Eastern constituency where he was the guest speaker.
The recently appointed senator pointed to an incident in May at the PNP headquarters which led to the party's Deputy General Secretary Dexroy Martin having to apologise after he had chided a female journalist for wearing a green item of clothing to cover an assignment.
Fitz-Henley also pointed to an incident in the 1970s when former Prime Minister Michael Manley led a contingent of PNP supporters to the head offices of a media house and uttered menacing words.
He urged the current leadership of the PNP to restrain its members from repeating recent verbal attacks on sections of the media which they have accused of bias.
"I want to make a comment about a sense of desperation I see creeping into the politics of the People's National Party. First dem cuss some members of the private sector who are fair in their assessment of the good performance of Government, then dem turn around and start cuss media," said Fitz-Henley.
"A see dem sit down in a editors' forum and dem a grumble just because there are broadcast and press institutions in this country which are willing to be fair to the two major sides of the political fence. A hear one or two a dem call mi name — some a dem same man and woman who use to run to mi when dem inna problem or want publicity because they know that when I was a member of the fourth estate. I was fair to them. I hear the old hypocrites a grumble and they sound pathetic," added Fitz-Henley who resigned from media two years ago before joining the JLP this year.
He told the meeting that it's a good thing when people shift careers and are willing to serve in the political arena.
"As a matter of fact, you have people who served the PAJ [Press Association of Jamaica] at very high levels, and served newspapers at high levels, who decided to be communication director for PNP. And I'd never go on a platform and cuss dem because it is a good thing when Jamaicans from all walks of life do not only resort to complaining on social media, but decide to engage the political process and seek to serve the people," argued Fitz-Henley.
"So I have a message to PNP who have a history of taking set on media from when they marched on a media institution many years ago and menace dem talking about 'next time, next time'. I say this to them: Any time you find a political party spending so much time a cuss media, it is a sign of a party that is desperate and bankrupt of ideas about how to move this country forward. So a say to PNP: A know you desperate, I know you don't have a clue how to move this country forward, but back off and leave media to do dem work and stop damage Jamaica's press freedom rankings. Back off!" Fitz-Henley declared.
He also scoffed at Opposition Senator Donna Scott-Mottley who recently said that many people were surprised when he was appointed to the Senate, and questioned whether media practitioners should declare bias.
While claiming that Scott-Mottley has made comments about him four times since his appointment to the Upper House of Parliament, without a reply from him, Fitz-Henley said there was no bias on display when he worked in the media.
"Some of the hypocrites grumbling, forget we were fair to them, and they would come to us when they wanted coverage because we were professional. And if what was suggested was a news item we'd broadcast it without consideration for any other factor but whether the story met the criteria for news.
"But the truth is, after growing up in the 1990s and watching PNP policies cause pain on hundreds and thousands of Jamaicans, including the Finsac débâcle which led some Jamaicans to depression and suicide, Donna Scott-Mottley who... a mumble bout bias really expect members of my generation who decide to serve in the political arena to choose her side which has shown no contrition for its destructive politics?" charged Fitz-Henley.