PAJ Raises Additional Concerns About Access, Calls for OPM to Schedule Briefings with PM

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Friday, October 2nd, 2015

The Press Association of Jamaica notes the conflicting statements from the British High Commissioner and the Office of the Prime Minister about the discussions that resulted in the initial decision to deny local media an opportunity to ask questions of  Prime Ministers Cameron and Simpson Miller during Prime Minister Cameron’s recent visit to Jamaica.

We take no public position on what may have taken place, and who is correct, but are pleased that both offices appear to have recognised that the lack of access was an issue. We wish to take the opportunity to make two further points.

The Office of the Prime Minister has stated that initial discussions focused on using the same format that had been employed for the media during the visit of US President Barack Obama, where one Jamaican journalist was allowed to ask one question of the Jamaican Prime Minister, while one American journalist was allowed to ask one question of the US President.

This is not an adequate format. We regard the allowance of one question per press contingent, along with the stipulation as to which leader a question can be put, as unduly restrictive.

We are concerned that the Office of the Prime Minister appears to regard this as sufficient for the Jamaican press corps, and while we understand, as we have said before, that the wishes of the visiting heads of government must be taken into account, we question why formats used elsewhere are not adopted instead. We refer, for example, to the US President’s joint briefings at the White House, transcripts of which are on record, where several questions are taken, and both political leaders respond to each question.

We very much hope that the impression is not being given in any way, or that anyone would believe that members of the Jamaican press deserve anything less than our counterparts in countries like the US.

Finally, we cannot let this opportunity pass without pointing out – once again – the disgraceful position taken by Jamaica House generally in its restriction of media access to  Prime Minister Simpson Miller.

The Prime Minister has given very few in-depth interviews during her term in office which would allow individual journalists to adequately probe her ideas and policies. Even more importantly, however, the Prime Minister has, for over two years, refused to hold any press conferences for the wider press corps. The importance of press conferences lies in the fact that all journalists are able to attend and pose a wide variety of questions.

The Prime Minister’s steadfast refusal to face the media is unprecedented in modern times, and is contemptuous of, and dismissive of the Jamaican press to an unbelievable degree.

We urge Jamaica House to begin to pay the local press the respect it deserves, and to immediately begin to schedule regular press conferences with the Prime Minister, for the benefit of the public which we serve.

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