During the course of my work on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, I have more than once, rather controversially, wished those who hope to restrict free expression on the internet “...
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Mc Comie apologises for ‘silly’ statement
Communications Minister Vasant Bharath has apologised to the media for statements made by Dennis Mc Comie, director of communications in the Office of the Prime Minister, at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing. During the press briefing, Mc Comie, who chairs the news conference, told journalists they could not put questions to the PM, but invited them to pose questions to Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan.
He added that it was the ministers’ prerogative “to decide if they are not going to respond if you ask silly questions.” Near the end of the news conference, CNC3 journalist and Matt vice president Khamal Georges asked Mc Comie if it was not inappropriate for him to question the questions put by journalists. Mc Comie said the questions “must be relevant to the context of the (minister’s) presentation.” He also told the media they would not be given food after the briefings if they did not behave.
In a telephone interview, Bharath said he was surprised that someone with Mc Comie’s level of experience in the media would make such statements. “I don’t doubt that he said those things, but I am very surprised. “I take this opportunity to apologise to the media on behalf of the Communications Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister,” Bharath said. He said he intended to look into the matter and would speak to Mc Comie about the statements.
The Media Association of T&T (Matt) yesterday called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to “rein in” Mc Comie if he failed to apologise for attacking working journalists. Matt president Curtis Williams, in a phone interview, said the association condemned Mc Comie’s statements in the strongest way possible. “Mr Mc Comie should apologise. He launched an unwarranted and unnecessary attack on working journalists,” Williams said.
He said Mc Comie’s suggestion that journalists should not ask “silly questions” raised the question of whether journalists should feel free to ask questions of ministers who had presented themselves for that purpose. “It is an attack on freedom of the press, which Matt will defend. We want him to apologise and if he does not, we are calling on the Prime Minister to rein him in.”
Williams labelled as uncouth and “without class” Mc Comie’s other suggestion that if journalists “did not behave” the Office of the Prime Minister would stop offering refreshments. Several journalists yesterday expressed their disappointment in Mc Comie’s statements on social media. One said she found Mc Comie’s statements extremely disrespectful and his manner condescending towards journalists.