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PAJ raps treatment of journalists at Jamaica House


Jamaica Observer

PAJ raps treatment of journalists at Jamaica House

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KINGSTON – The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) yesterday chided the Government for the treatment meted out to two journalists at Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing by the director of communications in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Huntely Medley.

The PAJ, in a statement, said that both journalists were “fulfilling their responsibilities to get information in the public interest” when they were prevented from posing questions to Information Minister Sandrea Falconer on the contentious Outameni controversy.

“The process at the press briefing on Wednesday was not handled professionally,” the PAJ argued.

“We call on the Office of the Prime Minister to find ways to manage its press conferences other than to have officials physically wresting microphones from journalists. This is not acceptable, and we urge a review of its procedures in this regard.”

During the press briefing Wednesday Medley yanked the microphone from Television Jamaica’s Andre Jebbison mid-sentence and later signalled the audio technician to mute the microphone while Nationwide’s Abka Fitz-Henley pressed the information minister for answers on the Outameni deal.

The PAJ said that while it acknowledged that organisers of press conferences must have the right to allow all journalists present to ask questions, and it must be within their right to request journalists asking questions to yield, the OPM must ensure that officials who are able to respond to the issues are always present at such briefings.

However, Medley, in his defence, said that while it is the responsibility and duty of the Communication and Public Affairs Department to encourage, facilitate and support frequent opportunities for the media to interface with public officials, all that occurred at the briefing was not conveyed by media reports.

“There are certain basic procedures that have always existed to guide media briefings and press conferences at Jamaica House. The Communication Department is responsible for ensuring that those procedures are followed for good order,” the communications director said.

“During questions and answers, journalists are required to indicate their intention to ask a question by raising their hands and on being acknowledged by the person providing answers, or the moderator of the briefing, to ask their question and allow for the answer.”

Medley, however, conceded that the manner in which he operated was not appropriate.

“I accept the very negative impression that has been created by my actions and the media reports of what transpired,” he said.

“On reflection, I am convinced that I did what was right but might not have done it right. My motives were correct but my methods might not have been the best under the circumstances,” he said.

He assured that the Communication Department would continue to facilitate the media to access information from the OPM so that they can perform their duty of informing the public.

Meanwhile, the PAJ said that it is concerned about the frequency of post-Cabinet press briefings, and the inadequacy of the answers to questions of national interest provided at many such press conferences.

The PAJ said a critical aspect of a transparent government is its interaction with the press and that the Office of the Prime Minister has been lacking in this regard.

“We put on record the position, previously stated publicly by the PAJ, and reiterated during our courtesy call on the prime minister on Tuesday, that we are calling for the prime minister to engage with the press and to hold, on a regular basis, press briefings in which she can address issues of national importance. No such press conference has been held for months,” the PAJ said. (Jamaica Observer)

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