Obnoxious today, oppressive tomorrow
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I find myself in an unusual and unhappy position for me, namely, disagreement with my favourite journalist, Dionne Jackson-Miller.
In her letter to the editor published on Marcus Garvey's birthday, Dionne restated some important general principles but failed, in my opinion, to correctly apply them to the facts.
In laying out what she called the "dangers" of media blackouts, Dionne postulated:
1. "Freedom of expression", which the PAJ must defend, includes "the obnoxious as well as the admirable".
2. Media shouldn't decide not to cover someone because we disapprove of their behaviour.
3. Because Warmington is an MP, a media blackout may be punishment of his constituents who have done nothing wrong
All these general principles are incontrovertible. But the facts of this case don't involve "obnoxious" behaviour, nor is it behaviour of which anyone simply "disapproves". What took place at Belmont Road was a direct, blatant, crass and unambiguous assault on the press in its capacity as the nation's watchdog and, accordingly, was itself a direct attack on press freedom.
This closely follows the attempt to muzzle Abka Fitz-Henley at a post-Cabinet briefing. If the press continues to namby-pamby these incidents, media are heading down a slippery slope. Next, journalists will need work permits and official permission to question or photograph MPs. Before you can say "It's only obnoxious", journalists who behave as aggressively as Abka will be kidnapped by political extremists and beheaded on DVD.
Dionne has properly said drastic action must be left to the PAJ general membership, but she seems to have pre-empted that decision with her public support of non-drastic action. Be careful. Media and the judiciary are Jamaica's last hopes. Today, it's media's resolve that's in the spotlight