The Press Association of Jamaica has raised concern over criticisms levelled on the press by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a party constituency meeting last Monday.
Citing one comment from the Prime Minister relating the stance taken by the media as it relates to truth and facts, the PAJ described the statement as problematic in a number of ways.
In a statement the PAJ points out that the assertions are untrue as reporting should obviously be fair, balanced and accurate, and opinion commentary, whatever the position taken by the commentator, should also be based on facts.
It adds that for the Prime Minister to state otherwise to his listeners, many of whom are being guided by him, is a troubling misrepresentation of the work of the press, which will inevitably have the effect of weakening trust in what is an essential pillar of any constitutional democracy.
The Prime Minister also stated that not all things presented by the media are facts or are true and encouraged his listeners to visit his and the party’s social media pages for information.
The PAJ says while Mr. Holness is free to direct the public to his or his party’s social media pages by mixing this with statements that the media need not report truth, he is sending the message that the media are not to be trusted and that the government’s and party’s information arms are preferable to that of a free press.
The PAJ states that like any citizen, the Prime Minister is free to criticise the press, and to comment on any media report, whether because he thinks it is inaccurate or for any other reason. However, it is cause for concern when a political leader, speaking from a political party platform, seeks to undermine the media as a whole.
The PAJ is urging Mr. Holness to refrain from using the power of his platform to erode trust in an important democratic institution. And cautions him to remember the powerful position, from which he speaks, the weight that his words carry, and that he has repeatedly stated his commitment to uphold the freedom of the press.