State Govt position on press freedom
Publishers and broadcasters call on PM:
The Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association is calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to clearly state the Government's intent on the media and press freedom.
In a release yesterday, the association stated: "We seem to be in a web of conflict without a clear definition of Government's intention with respect to the media and freedom of the press.
"We humbly ask that our Honourable Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, issue a statement on Government's intention so that we can clear the air and move forward to build a vibrant and strong nation where we can respect each other's positions and functions and conduct day-to-day activities in each other's best interest, free from mundane speculation and unwarranted attacks."
The association said, "Within recent times, the media have been plagued and bombarded with allegations and inferences that have been conveyed in a manner that suggests freedom of the press may soon be a licensed privilege rather than a pillar of our democracy."
"We refer to the relentless treatment of our journalists, considered by Reporters Without Borders to be a 'smear campaign'."
Describing recent remarks made by Minister of Communications Jamal Mohammed, in a letter to CCN TV6 Head of News Dominic Kalipersad, as "unfortunate and distasteful", the association said: "While we understand that the minister said the letter was not for publication, he is now a member of the elected Government and also the Government's spokesperson, and his actions and words are considered to be reflective of Government's position. In such a post, we expect that one would be dispassionate.
"The words used in the opening remarks are of grave concern. To use such ethnically charged words can only be a step down from a nation where every creed and race finds an equal place. We hope that these words do not mirror the ideology or sentiments of our Government."
Acknowledging the apology of Mohammed on Thursday evening at the post-Cabinet news conference, the association said he had agreed to meet with members of the organisation on the issue, with the hope of finding a resolve and that signalled a more positive approach to the media.
However, the association expressed concern "Trinidad and Tobago is perhaps the only democratic nation in the world where government has imposed a quota of airtime for government use".
The organisation stated that it hoped the current Government would let good sense prevail and review its use of this time to show its commitment to fair principles of democracy. "The role of the media is to report the news accurately and, in a democratic nation, which this country is, a media house can take sides if it chooses, which is largely reflected in its opinion and commentary content.
"Every media house in every democracy comes under fire at one time or another for being politically biased. This is not unusual and it is an accusation that will never be discounted; it is a norm in a democracy.
"Government needs to acknowledge the media's role too as a common carrier, whereby Government can also learn about the views of the public."