'I shudder to think of what would happen if we didn't have a free press'
Rev calls on journalists to expose, interrogate
President of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Milton Walker (left) makes a point to chief justice of Jamaica Bryan Sykes ahead of the association's church service to launch National Journalism Week at Christ Church in Vineyard Town, St Andrew, on Sunday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

REVEREND Sean Major-Campbell, pastor of Christ Church in Vineyard Town, has urged journalists to use their skills to expose and interrogate individuals at varying levels of society who maintain a façade to hide a crumbling state of affairs.

"The press in Jamaica is called to the sacred duty to be the ear and voice of the people. If you ever find yourself antagonistic to professional journalism, check yourself. Agents of the press seek and present information that some are not always capable to appreciate when truth is being revealed. Journalists are therefore potentially vulnerable to negative elements when a requisite maturity is lacking, and one sees cases of this on the political campaign trail from time to time," the clergyman said on Sunday.

Major-Campbell, who was delivering his homily during the Press Association of Jamaica's National Journalism Week church service under the theme 'Free Press for a better Jamaica', said the role of a free press is always the revelation of truth. His comments come amidst the maelstrom of negatives that heralded the new year for Jamaicans including the biggest fraud in Jamaica's history, at the scandal-hit Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) and the sex scandal rocking the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, among others.

"We live in a culture where there is a preoccupation with producing good sounding reports, saying politically correct things and making sure to use words that pacify those who are burdened with some concern. Those of you who understand more about research and communication skills must interrogate the voices," he said.

Immediate past president of the Press Association of Jamaica George Davis shares a joke with PAJ director Dionne Jackson Miller at the church service. National Journalism Week will run from January 29 to February 4. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

"Listen carefully as various managers and CEOs and ministers of government over the years sound intelligent but they are saying very little. I am tired of situations where a poor citizen calls a ministry and complains about a long-overdue matter often involving salary and then they get sent down the rabbit hole on an endless search that takes them right back to the place where they began," Major-Campbell said further.

In alluding to the observations of the biblical prophet Micah who saw the poverty of the society of his day despite the prosperity seen on the surface, the clergyman, in noting that Jamaica is not much different, warned that "the seeds of a revolution are being sown".

"People are frustrated and tired," he said, noting that Jamaicans are wary of politicians who have failed to deal with crime and violence and "who play board games regarding justice".

According to Major-Campbell, the Church itself has been tainted by corruption.

"When the prophet Micah reflected on the society of his day, he saw that moral and spiritual decay had overtaken not only the surrounding nations but also that of a people who were called to be in covenant with God. Even here in Jamaica some of the most corrupt people go to church on a Saturday and Sunday. Micah saw that whenever this happens it results in an upheaval of the very foundations of society. The family was in trouble, the various organs of society were in shambles because of corruption," he said.

"Here in Jamaica just turn to your radios and listen to any call-in programme and hear Jamaicans crying out because they have been robbed by someone in the marketplace or in the hospital, the school, police station or some utility company and the list could go on. Anytime a nation is overtaken by corruption and greed and selfishness, the prophets always recognise that destruction was not far away," he added.

He, in the meantime, urged the press to campaign for an audit of the entities tasked with protecting children while questioning how many children have made reports of abuse and how those reports were treated.

"I shudder to think of what would happen if we did not have a free press," he said.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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