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OPM Communication committed to media, truth and good order

KINGSTON, Jamaica November 28, 2014 - Director of Communications in the Office of the Prime Minister Huntley Medley, says media reports on the unfortunate developments at the Jamaica House Media Briefing on Wednesday, November 26 have not all conveyed the position and views of the Communication and Public Affairs Department of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

In a statement yesterday, Mr. Medley said “It is the responsibility and duty of the Communication and Public Affairs Department to encourage, facilitate and support frequent opportunities for the media to interface with the Prime Minister, Ministers Without Portfolio and other senior officials in the OPM. During a Courtesy Call by members of the Executive of the Press Association of Jamaica with the Prime Minister – which the Communication Department facilitated – on Tuesday, November 25, the Prime Minister gave a commitment to participate in more regular exchanges with the media. The Communication Department will act on the Prime Minister’s commitment.

The Jamaica House Media Briefing is one of the occasions for the media to be provided with information about the programmes and activities of the OPM and the government in general. Internally at the OPM, the Communication and Public Affairs Department has consistently advocated for the Briefing to be held more regularly and for there to be fulsome, honest, open communication with the media and the public at all times.

There are certain basic procedures that have always existed to guide Media Briefings and Press Conferences at Jamaica House. The Communication Department is responsible for ensuring that those procedures are followed for good order. During Questions and Answers journalists are required to indicate their intention to ask a question by raising their hands and on being acknowledged by the person providing answers or the moderator of the Briefing, to ask their question and allow for the answer. The journalists might indicate their desire to ask a follow-up question related to their initial question. This has always been facilitated and was facilitated on Wednesday.

During the Briefing on Wednesday, TVJ Reporter Mr. Andre Jebbinson, was recognised and handed the cordless audio microphone used by the OPM Team to enable the questions from journalists to be heard by all and to be recorded for the live broadcast of the Briefing by the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ). Mr. Jebbinson initially asked and was allowed about six questions.  He was then asked by me to allow other journalists to ask questions after which he would be permitted an opportunity to ask any other questions he wished. He indicated that he had two more questions. He was allowed to ask the additional two questions and again asked be me to allow other journalists to pose their questions.  Mr. Jebbinson started to ask another question at which point I took the audio microphone from him and handed it to another journalist.

In an unfortunate act of defiance and ungraciousness which some young journalists have mistakenly equated with being probing and fearless, Mr. Jebbinson refused to allow me to retrieve the microphone from him which necessitated my exertion of some force in taking the microphone from him. After other journalists were allowed to ask their questions, I recognised and again allowed Mr. Jebbinson to ask his other questions and get answers to them.

Another unfortunate situation again occurred during the Briefing after several questions were asked by Mr. Abka Fitz-Henley of Nationwide News and his questions were all allowed. On being asked to permit other journalists to pose their questions he also refused to relinquish the cordless audio microphone and I gave instructions to the audio technicians to mute the microphone.

I accept the very negative impression that has been created by my actions and the media reports of what transpired. On reflection, I am convinced that I did what was right but might not have done it right: My motives were correct but my methods might not have been the best under the circumstances.

As a journalist – news reporter, radio presenter, news editor, media manager for more than thirty (30) years; and as a former trainer of journalists as lecturer in journalism with the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies, I will NEVER be party to any attempt to muzzle journalists in the performance of their duties. However, journalists also have a duty to act responsibly, fairly, and to recognize and respect the rights of others, including their own colleagues.

The reporter from one of the daily newspapers who did not ask any questions during Wednesday’s Briefing told me after the event, that she was unable to ask any questions as the time was monopolized by the TVJ and Nationwide reporters.

The Communication Department of the OPM will continue to facilitate the media to access information from the OPM so that they can perform their duty of informing the public. We will also review our arrangements for ensuring the orderly flow of the media exchanges involving officials of the OPM with an adherence at all times to basic operating procedures.”

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