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Press, PM face-off again

Published:Friday | November 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM
TVJ's reporter Vashan Brown being shoved away by security personnel from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller after she refused to answer questions from him about Richard Azan and her trips to Japan while at the official dedication of Harris Street in Rose Town on Thursday, November 21. - Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

An incident between Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's security detail and a journalist yesterday has threatened to reopen old wounds between the prime minister and the Jamaican press.

The episode, which resulted in a reporter being ushered away from Simpson Miller, followed the dedication ceremony for a US$2-million water-and-sewer project in Rose Town, Kingston, yesterday.

Simpson Miller was being pressed by the Television Jamaica (TVJ) reporter, Vashan Brown, on the reinstating of Richard Azan to the post of junior minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works.

However, the prime minister refused to answer the journalist's questions on the matter, noting that she was on hand to speak about the completion of the project.

She called for the journalist to respect her decision to not comment further and her bodyguards then intervened.

Azan was forced to resign earlier this year, following public pressure over instigating the construction of several shops in the Spalding Market in Clarendon.

However, last Thursday, he was returned to his previous government position.

The incident has prompted a call from the Jamaica Labour Party for media practitioners to not be harassed when carrying out their duties.

urgent need for dialogue

Last night, the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) said it was reviewing the matter.

Christopher Barnes, chairman of the Media Association Jamaica Ltd, noted it was unfortunate and of concern that a journalist was physically restrained from carrying out his or her work.

"Given the repeat of incidents in such a short space of time, there is urgent need for constructive dialogue on how this can be avoided in the future," said Barnes, who is also managing director of The Gleaner Company Ltd.

In a release last night, the Office of the Prime Minister noted that following a previous incident between Simpson Miller's security team and journalists, guidelines were established for the proper management of on-location interviews, "one of which calls for advanced notice of request for such interviews and the clearance of interviews with the prime minister's on-site personnel".

However, those guidelines were not accepted by the PAJ.