PAJ News Blog
Posts Tagged ‘press freedom’
December 19, 2016: The Press Association of Jamaica has written to Prime Minister Andrew Holness noting his failure to hold press briefings since assuming office, and urging him to do so in the New Year for benefit of the public.
The PAJ stressed that it was very concerned about media access to Ministers of Government, and particularly to Mr. Holness as Prime Minister.
PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller acknowledged in her letter to the Prime Minister that he had given several interviews to local media houses since assuming office, including one to her, and the RJR Communications Group for which she works.
However, the PAJ President noted that although these interviews are important, they are necessarily selective and exclude many reporters and media houses, and therefore do not provide the kind of broad-based access to media which press conferences do.
The PAJ noted that Mr. Holness, since assuming office in March, had yet to hold a comprehensive press briefing in the capacity of Prime Minister, which all media representatives could attend and ask him a range of questions, for the benefit of the public.
The PAJ urged Mr. Holness to remedy this deficiency as early as possible in the New Year, and to make these briefings a regular staple on his schedule.
The PAJ’s letter has been acknowledged by the Office of the Prime Minister, with a commitment to respond to the concerns expressed at the earliest possible time.
The Press Association of Jamaica joins the world in observing World Press Freedom Day 2016 on May 3, and calls on the Jamaican government to give urgent attention to making long-awaited amendments to the Access to Information Act, and repealing the Official Secrets Act.
The PAJ’s call is very much in keeping with this year’s theme, which is “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This is Your Right!”
The thrust of this year’s theme is of particular relevance to us here in the Caribbean, as we continue to push for more transparency and access to information from those in authority, says PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller.
The relevance of the theme can be seen in reference to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular Goal 16 which is “dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.”
One of the targets of Goal 16 is ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
It is in this context that the PAJ is again highlighting the long-overdue amendments to the Access to Information Act, and the need to repeal the Official Secrets Act, an incongruous and anachronistic law which is out of step with the modern emphasis on transparency and accountability.
The PAJ adds that while Jamaica celebrates its continued high ranking on the World Press Freedom Index 2016 (number 10 out of
180 countries), the organisation remembers colleagues in countries where press freedom is not given a similarly high priority.
The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has noted that during the last ten years, more than 700 reporters have been killed globally in the line of duty.
The PAJ joins with press freedom organisations across the world in calling for an end to impunity for crimes against journalists. The Executive will therefore be asking members at the next General Meeting to consider supporting the call byReporters Without Borders (RSF) for the UN to create the position of Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary General for the Safety of Journalists.
“The goal is to establish a concrete mechanism that enforces international law and thereby finally reduces the number of journalists killed every year in the course of their work,” said RSF recently.
Here at home, as media workers continue to express concerns about working conditions and poor salaries, and the consequent negative impact on the profession, the PAJ will be hosting a special meeting at which Head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Institute Danny Roberts will be the featured speaker. The meeting will discuss issues related to the representation of media workers, and will be held on Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 2 pm at the PAJ offices at 5 East Avenue (the road opposite the Queens School). All media workers, whether members of the PAJ or not, are invited to attend.
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