No, Mr. Prime Minister
It is nonsensical to set wild dogs against a cat then turn around and pretend it was a harmless game. That is precisely what Daryl Vaz, the G2K and Prime Minister Andrew Holness have done in their ill-advised vitriolic attacks against the Press.
This country has come a long way from the dark days when The Gleaner was seen as pro-JLP, JBC TV (now TVJ) was pro-PNP and RJR as reactionary, while this paper has been the target for whichever party is in government, and journalists professionally associated with these media houses treated accordingly.
We certainly would not wish to see a return of those days when politicians stood on campaign platforms and spew out venom against the Press, causing reporters to be subjected to verbal and physical abuse from idiotic followers who interpreted the utterances of their leaders as commands to attack.
We stand in support of our colleagues in defending Press Freedom. Equally, we expect media houses to be professional and adhere to the tenets of fairness and in doing so, seek to present a balanced picture. But we also understand the challenges faced by reporters and their media houses in getting accurate information at times, in a timely manner and when this happens, an aggrieved party must always have the right to respond.
But for Prime Minister Holness to glibly suggest it’s time to move on does not cut it; the message has already been sent out and journalists must now consider themselves to be targets and take every precaution against fanatics who would wish to attack them in the name of “red” or “green” party. There should be, coming from the Prime Minister, G2K and Vaz, equally loud proclamations that they unreservedly support freedom of the Press and making it abundantly clear to supporters that they have not been given a license to abuse reporters covering election activities.
We subscribe to the principles laid down by IAPA, the Inter American Press Association, which is a non-profit organization devoted to defending freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the Americas.
IAPA’s mission includes: “* To defend press freedom wherever it comes under threat in the Americas. * To protect the interests of the press in the Americas.* To defend the dignity, the rights, and the responsibilities of journalism. * To encourage higher standards of professionalism and business conduct. * To promote broader awareness and further the exchange of information among the peoples of the Americas, in order to support the basic principles of a free society and individual liberty.”
Jamaica has had cause in the past to lodge formal complaints to IAPA about threats to freedom of the Press and to journalists in this country. Like the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) says, we hope it will not become necessary again in the foreseeable future.