Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Holness commits to a free press

Published:Wednesday | August 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) listens to a point from president of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Gary Allen, at the opening ceremony for the CBU's 49th Annual General Assembly at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Monday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared his administration's commitment to doing its part to ensure freedom of the press in Jamaica.

Addressing the opening ceremony for the 49th Annual General Assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday, Holness said that he was pleased that Jamaica ranked sixth in the world in press freedom.

He pointed to the passage of significant legislation in this regard, citing reform of the Defamation Act, and access to information and whistle-blower laws, and noted that the Data Protection Act was now being discussed in Parliament.

"We need the free press more than ever," said Holness as he noted that we were in the age of social media, which was rife with "fake news and alternative facts".

The prime minister lamented that technology was enabling persons to create fake identities "and rapidly spread false information to unsuspecting consumers. There is no filter, there is no fact check, there is no editor, there is no consideration of the public good."

Holness added: "The best protection from the dangers of social media is to have a free press that is strong in ferreting out the truth. I depend on our press to ensure that whatever false information is spread in social media, that they, at some point in time, will use their editorial abilities [and] their research abilities to correct false narrative that is spread in social media."

He also announced that the Government would be launching a commission shortly to examine and find solutions to violence in Jamaica. According to Holness, the media would be a major stakeholder in this process.

"It is not a discussion for politicians solely to have; it is a national discussion. When I announce this commission, I am certain that we will be inviting members of the Press Association and the Media Association to participate to help us to come to a solution to this issue of violence," said Holness.

He implored the Jamaican media to be responsible in how it promoted, projected, produced and publicised content that could in any way support violence, adding that the Government had to increase its footprint and presence in ensuring that there were positive messages in a free media as an effective way of dealing with violence.

"There has to be a kind of sit-down now to figure out how it is that we are going to get our positive messages out there, while ensuring that your media houses and your publishing houses remain viable," said Holness.

Log on to www.jamaica-gleaner.com for the address by CBU President Gary Allen at the annual general assembly ceremony on Monday.