Letter of the day: PAJ has no need to apologise
The Editor, Sir:
I note the letter written by Ralston Chamberlain in Tuesday's Gleaner, in which he calls on several journalists, including me, to "apologise to Senator Sandrea Falconer" and further states that "it is poor journalism at the very least not to set the record straight after you have damaged a person's reputation".
I write, therefore, to inform Mr Chamberlain, and others who may not have taken the time to actually read for themselves what the Press Association said on this issue of media access during the visit of the British Prime Minister. I must also express my great surprise at this completely unfounded and unfortunate allegation that I have damaged anyone's reputation.
First, the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), for which I was speaking, does not practise journalism. The PAJ is, among other things, a group that lobbies for media access and press freedom. That such a lobby was needed on this occasion was amply borne out of the events that unfolded.
Second, at no time did the PAJ accuse Senator Falconer of anything. In our open letter to the prime minister dated September 29, 2015, we expressed concern at the lack of media access during the visits of the British and Japanese prime ministers and strongly urged the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) "to make it a priority to include, and to push much more vigorously for actual press briefings with visiting heads of government". The PAJ, in fact, in our statement dated October 1, 2015, expressly declined to take a view on the conflicting statements about media arrangements which had come from the OPM and the British high commissioner.
The OPM had responded in its statement dated October 1, 2015 that "the Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica recommended that questions be taken by both prime ministers following their press statements" and that "it was initially agreed ... that given the usual time constraints with such short visits, the prime minister of Jamaica would invite and answer one question from the Jamaican media contingent and the prime minister of the United Kingdom would invite and answer one question from the UK Media".
The PAJ was very concerned about this revelation and felt obliged to point out that the format which the OPM described and which had been used during the visit of the US president, was not only lacking, but also did not accord with the format of similar press conferences held by the US president himself at the White House. The "usual time constraints" does not inevitably mean that the extremely restrictive and wholly inadequate format described must be the one adopted. We are very concerned that this format may now be seen as normal and acceptable for visiting heads of government to Jamaica.
The PAJ continues to speak for, and on behalf of, journalists, and to lobby strongly for media access for our press corps. There is nothing for which we have to apologise.
Dionne Jackson Miller