Jamaica gov’t believes in freedom, safety of press – PM

(Jamaica Gleaner) Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday sought to assure media practitioners who have come under attack from Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) platforms in Manchester and Portland that his Government supports democracy and freedom of speech.

Speaking during the Private Sector Association of Jamaica (PSOJ) Christmas lunch at the Wyndham hotel in New Kingston, the prime minister said the Government was not against the work of the media, but only wanted balance and fairness.

“I am noticing that there is a little bit of agitation in the press. And I want to say here publicly that this Government believes in freedom of the press, safety of the press. We also believe in transparency, and we believe in balance in reporting,” Holness said, hours after the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) sent him a letter expressing concern over the verbal attacks in Manchester last Wednesday and Portland on Monday night.

PAJ President Jenni Campbell, in a letter dated yesterday, said: “The PAJ takes note of the negative public utterances from your political platform against journalists and the veiled threats against media workers by your supporters at public meetings.”

Campbell added: “The PAJ is aware of instances in the not-too-distant past where platform comments have resulted in attacks on journalists.”

According to Campbell, the PAJ respected the right of anyone to criticise the media, but “the vitriol that has come from the Jamaica Labour Party platform in Portland and Manchester is unacceptable, and has put media workers at risk as they perform a legitimate and necessary function of providing the public with information”.

She said: “We wish to state clearly that should this pattern continue or if a single journalist is attacked, the PAJ will swiftly seek the assistance of its regional and international partners, including the International Press Institute, the International Federation of Journalists, the Inter-American Press Association and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, to ensure that your administration is reminded of Jamaica’s enviable record of press freedom and the sanctions which can be brought against a government which threatens the safety of media workers.”

The RJR Communications Group was also targeted by the JLP’s youth mouthpiece Generation 2000 (G2K) after its advertisements were withdrawn following legal concerns. The business emails of RJR General Manager Gary Allen and group head of news, Milton Walker, were sent out by G2K’s head, Delano Seiveright, in an email, to supporters, who were also urged to call the company’s switchboard.

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