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Don't hit 'send' - Political parties urged to establish communication policies as social media gaffes continue

Published:Saturday | June 18, 2016 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones

The firestorm ignited last week by Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte's tweet about the flying of the rainbow flag at the United States Embassy in Kingston has prompted a call for local political parties to urgently implement policies for the use of social media by leading members.

Media consultant Marcia Forbes told The Sunday Gleaner that the controversies following some postings by leading politicians show the need for change.

"I think the political parties should have social-media policies. In fact, they should have beyond the social-media policies, they should have communication policies," Forbes told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Because I see the battle going on over this road (from Harbour View to Bull Bay) and whether it is going to be a highway or not, communication policies are needed and then drill down into different media by which they communicate," added Forbes.

Malahoo Forte set off an inferno with her tweet surrounding the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as she declared, in what she said was her personal view, that it was disrespectful of Jamaican laws for the US Embassy to fly the rainbow flag, which is the symbol of the homosexual community.

With strong criticism from some and the backing of others, Malahoo Forte reportedly claimed her tweet was misconstrued, a position adopted by many other local politicians who have found themselves in the proverbial hot water over social-media posts.

Others who have faced serious backlash for comments made on social media include former People's National Party (PNP) member of parliament Damion Crawford, who is a serial user of social media.




One of Crawford's most attention-grabbing series of post was a war of words with PNP vice-president, Angela Brown Burke, on Facebook.

Crawford, who was in St Vincent and the Grenadines at the time assisting the Ralph Gonzalves administration, wrote, "Thank God Angela Brown Burke punishment never extended to St Vincent, up here nice."

Burke responded, "Damion lef mi name alone, ask Ralph if a nuh me tell him fi mek yuh come."

Crawford retaliated with, "Angela Brown Burke, Ralph not even mention you as someone to say hello to ... your influence nuh pass William Grant Park".

Fellow PNP MP, Dr Dayton Campbell, triggered widespread condemnation from Twitter users back in 2013 when he tweeted in response to a contestant being adjudged best shape in that year's Miss Jamaica World pageant, "bout best shape, she shape like the Jamaican economy."

"There are countless examples of tweets that have put persons in trouble. I have been caught myself with tweeting something that I have regretted," said Forbes.

"I am not a politician, I am not a public person, in that I am not running for any public office and so it is far easier for me to go and apologise or delete the tweet. But when you are a politician or you hold public office, that is a whole different approach.

"When you are a public person and you are in politics you have to be very careful what you say via social media, and sometimes you have to self-censor," added Forbes.