Last update: 12-Dec-2013 4:50 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Gibbings on press freedom: Whistle-blowing legislation good for transparency
Incumbent president of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) Wesley Gibbings says whistle-blowing legislation will promote greater transparency and accountability by state authorities. He was speaking at the opening session and panel discussion on press freedom in the Caribbean co-hosted by the association and the United Nations, at the United Nations Information Centre, at Victoria Avenue, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
Gibbings said, “The question of whistle-blowing capabilities and perhaps even whistle-blowing legislation to protect those people who have an interest in and who believe that in releasing information that would have otherwise been classified in the public interest, I think that is a positive thing. “It would have the effect of promoting greater transparency and accountability by state authorities.
“It’s a very difficult question to engage, we’ve had the Wikileaks controversy and now you have the Edward Snowden issue regarding the National Security Agency of the US which stresses the whole nature of the problem of whistle-blowing. “I think in the final analysis though, the public interest will be served by having an environment in which whistle-blowers are protected and have greater disclosure and access to more information by the average citizen.
He said official information was released in T&T for different reasons, sometimes classified information was released perhaps as a result of mischief or out of genuine concern. Gibbings said once the public interest was served, however, there was proper justification for the whistle blower doing what he or she believed to be right.
John S and James L Knight Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication at the University of Miami School of Communication Joseph Treaster said there were leaders in government who had created a “chilling effect” on press freedom in their respective countries by denigrating the press, embarrassing reporters at press conferences, made it look to certain members of the public that the press was ill-intentioned, incompetent and did what it took to discredit them.
International Press Institute press freedom manager Barbara Trionfi said there were many cases noted by the institute of a degree of government interference and the lack of acceptance by government that press freedom was a right and a value in a democratic society, which led to a situation of antagonism between the Government and the media which was extremely damaging to everyone.
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