Not enough protection - Media workers celebrate high press ranking with caution
Journalists Dionne Jackson Miller has again raised concerns that the Constitution of Jamaica does not provide for the protection of press freedom, a special guard which could shield journalists from being unduly pressured.
Jackson Miller argued that equating freedom of expression to freedom of the press was a misconception which could expose media houses and journalists.
Pointing to a recent case in Trinidad and Tobago stemming from the raid of the Trinidad Express, which had reported on an assistant commissioner of police, Jackson Miller contended the judgment made it clear that press freedom explicitly stated in statute weighed more heavily than mere freedom of expression.
“I can tell you that the non-inclusion of freedom of the press in the Jamaica Charter wasn’t for want of lobbying. The press association and the media association lobbied very, very strong. The parliamentarians were insisting that it was not necessary,” Jackson stated, while making her contribution to a discussion on whether Jamaica deserved its high press freedom ranking.
“The court is saying they are not the same thing. When you have them listed separately, freedom of the press means more.
Jackson Miller said she highly doubts that Jamaican journalists could be successful in arguing freedom of the press, if called upon to disclose sources.
She contended that despite Jamaica’s high ranking in the press freedom index, it is dangerous to think that politicians, police personnel and other influential operatives will always be media-friendly, and operating without adequate protection of the law is risky business.
The Gleaner’s Damion Mitchell, in stressing the importance of the media being vigilant, recalled how Prime Minister Andrew Holness dog- whistled at a Jamaica Labour Party meeting when he cast doubt on the integrity of the media.
“I was just listening to the news before I came here, and you know the news report is the news report; I make no comment on the opinions proffered by journalists, because that is the freedom of the society. They can take whatever stance they want to take because it’s free media. It doesn’t have to be the truth. It doesn’t have to relate to the facts, [because] it is their opinion,” Holness had said during a Jamaica Labour Party meeting at the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre during the party’s West Kingston Annual Constituency Conference.
The prime minister went on to tell supporters they could visit his and the JLP’s social media pages to be informed.
Mitchell also pointed out that the Data Protection Act could serve to undermine journalists and erode press freedom.
Meanwhile, United Kingdom High Commissioner Asif Ahmad lauded Jamaica’s ranking but expressed concern about the media environment.
He pointed out the media houses often struggle to produce news because of economic factors.
“The print media is still under severe stress and this is a phenomenon [happening] globally. The idea that you need people with deep pockets to keep newspapers alive is there to some extent but is now becoming extremely difficult with advertising revenues ... with people using alternative sources of news, the pay wall now working as well as it should, and you see and feel it in your hands. Some of my favourite newspapers in England, I find I get through it really quickly because there isn’t a lot there,” Ahmad stated at the function.