Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley brought more intrigue to a recent decision on media access to his briefings at the Diplomatic Centre, when he announced that he will now only be inviting mainstream media to said events in future.
The Prime Minister made the announcement during the People's National Movement's "Mix and Mingle" gathering at the Waterfront on Monday night, which ironically was intended to network with some of the very media professionals who may be ostracised by the decision.
At the time, the PM was responding to the Media Association of T&T's (MATT) calls for a defined policy regarding media access to such briefings. This came in the wake of a complaint by Robert Amar, who owns a radio station, that he was debarred from attending last week's COVID-19 media briefing, despite having attended previous sessions of this nature during the height of coverage of the COVID pandemic over the last two years.
PM Rowley was clear in annunciating that his policy will be to choose mainstream media houses for such events, insisting essentially that he reserves the right to determine who is invited to press briefings because not every individual who labels themselves media is entitled to an audience with him at such forums.
Now while we cannot take offence with the PM's decision to select a media pool, as does even the White House in the United States, we are finding it hard to fathom his justification for the same at this time.
This is because the PM has often defended his accessibility to the media during his tenure. So, while the PM may be able to challenge a call of denial of press freedom in this particular case, the question that arises is why has this issue cropped up now and is seemingly targeted at specific individuals.
We also note that in the context of today's media landscape, mainstream and new media are almost on level playing fields in some cases and, more importantly, allow almost similar abilities to disseminate information to the public, which we believe should always be the Government's main intention.
As such, the PM's call would seem arbitrary at best, especially since his argument seems to be directed towards individuals who are "leaders of political parties, candidates, sponsors of vulgarity and insults."
In fact, it would seem that the PM is really trying to separate the media sheep from the goats as it were, since it is also clear, from his argument, that he believes there are many individuals now purporting to be "media" via new media platforms, which individuals he is seeking to filter out of his briefings.
This is why this media house is joining MATT in calling for a properly defined policy for accreditation to cover the PM's media briefings. Access by invitation, in the manner the PM now suggests, is not an option.
Indeed, all bonafide journalists seeking to cover such events should be given access to these events. Anything less would, in fact, open the PM up to a question of discriminatory practices and put paid to his very suggestion that there is a free press in T&T.