Facing mounting criticisms over allegations that he confiscated the video recordings of two journalists, the chairman of Television Jamaica (TVJ) Ltd, Milton Samuda, has agreed to go on a leave of absence as the RJR Communications Group investigates the incident.
Samuda, who is an attorney-at-law, said he will remain on leave until the investigation is complete and the "final determinations are made".
The TVJ chairman said he also took the decision this week to recuse himself from a board meeting where the directors of the television station discussed the incident, which occurred after a July interview between the reporters and two of his clients - athletes Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson.
He said that his actions were taken to ensure that the discussions and the investigations are conducted in an independent manner.
UNAPPROVED QUESTION ASKED
The controversy erupted after Powell and Simpson, who were among five Jamaican athletes accused of taking banned substances, agreed to an interview with reporters on the condition that they would only respond to questions that were pre-approved.
At the end of the interview, one of the reporters claimed that Samuda "demanded" his recording, charging that they had asked a question that was not approved.
This earned the ire of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) and the International Press Institute, which asserted that Samuda's action amounted to a form of censorship.
But the TVJ chairman has denied demanding the recordings, saying the reporters agreed to turn them over and to the provision of edited versions "after acknowledging that they had breached the agreement".
He conceded that in his role as attorney for the athletes, there were aspects of his duties that caused questions about his commitment to press freedom and his duty to protect the credibility and integrity of the RJR Group, but said he also had concerns about the way the issue was handled by the PAJ.
Citing one example, Samuda said he found it "unreasonable" that the PAJ conducted an investigation and reached a conclusion without seeking his input.