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TTPBA to PM: Clarify Govt position on press freedom
The executive of the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) has called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to clarify her Government’s position on press freedom in this country. In a release to the media yesterday, the organisation said there seemed to be 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 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 media organisation referred to the now controversial letter issued by Communication Minister Jamal Mohammed to TV6 head of news Dominic Kalipersad on what he (Mohammed) viewed as anti-Government reporting by the station and its sister print publication, Trinidad Express.
The TTPBA described the contents of the letter as “unfortunate and distasteful,” coming from an elected Government and from a minister who was the official spokesman for the Cabinet and was of the view that “his actions and words are considered to be reflective of Government’s position. In such a post we expect that one would be dispassionate.”
While underscoring the need for accuracy in the reporting of news, the association held the view that a media house could take sides if it chose and that this was largely reflected in its opinion and commentary content. The statement added that 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. A media house can choose its style whether it be partisan journalism, investigative reporting or interpretive reporting, or yellow journalism. At the end of the day the media must serve its role to inform the public. Government needs to acknowledge the media’s role too as a common carrier, whereby Government can also learn about the views of the public.
“Within recent times the media has 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.”
The TTPBA also dealt with the issue of government quotas in the electronic media and said it hoped the Persad-Bissessar administration would review its intention for the use of this time and let good sense prevail in order to show their commitment to our fair principles of democracy. Mohammed has agreed to meet with members of TTPBA with a view to resolve these issues.
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