|PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar: "Let us rise above personal agendas and partisan interests for the sake of the greater good and the continued growth, development and prosperity of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago."|
She also noted that unlike many foreign states that are torn apart by religious conflicts, Trinidad & Tobago remains a country characterised by varied religious traditions which characterize the plurality of the country.
"Thankfully, here in Trinidad and Tobago we still remain a remarkable example of cultural diversity and tolerance," she observed.
"We have recently celebrated Eid with our Muslim brothers and sisters and last week we enjoyed, as a unified Nation, the festival of Divali, which honours the Goddess Lakshmi and reminds us of the power of light and knowledge to dispel darkness and ignorance.
"Today we are fortunate as a people to be able to celebrate and reflect on the Christian commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ – a time of sharing, of renewed hope…a time when we more easily think of others rather than self, but more so a time for reconnecting with family and friends; together seeking truth and beauty."
She commended the media, which she introduced as the fourth estate. And noted that they give a voice to and share important information with citizens on matters of national and international importance.
"Upholding press freedom remains a right enshrined in our country’s Constitution and a necessary component of a strong, effective democracy," she declared.
Persad-Bissessar reminded the media that at the conclusion of the International Press Institute’s (IPI) World Congress in Trinidad in June she made it clear that her administration will continue to support press freedom and the rights of journalists to “tell the story".
She added, "As professionals, I know you will undoubtedly honour your craft by adhering to the principles of truth, fairness and justice as you fulfill your mandate of safeguarding the public interest."
The Prime Minister pointed out that her administration "is possibly the most scrutinized administration in Trinidad and Tobago’s political history", to date.
"Whether through the traditional forms of mass media or the new explosion of social media, my Government finds itself commented on, analysed, blogged, tweeted and posted about on a daily basis," she said. "And so it should be."
She added, "We also have been given a mandate by the people - to serve and to serve with distinction. If we fall below expectations, the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, which we are fortunate to enjoy in this country, allow for free, fair and open comment and discussion.
"These are the times in which we live…the age of information, instant information. We literally have the world at our fingertips.
"So too my Administration has also strategically embraced new media, to make us more accessible to our citizens here at home and our nationals abroad. Almost all of my Ministries have a presence on the Internet, some with services being available on-line and I believe some of my Ministers are well versed bloggers."
Persad-Bissessar said her government has included children in "this technological transformation by fulfilling our promise to provide laptops to form one students and their teachers."
"New interactive social fora such as Facebook, Twitter, BBMs, even e-mails have forever changed the communications landscape and that transition has taken place with unprecedented speed. Real time, immediate comment and feedback have become the norm.
"We are now challenged to exercise greater levels of responsibility and self-regulation, to ensure that in exercising our personal right to freedom of expression, we do not impinge on others’ fundamental individual human rights.
"High ethical standards must be maintained, at all times, in the performance of our professional duties and my Government will not abdicate our responsibility to protect the freedom of every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, including you our journalists."
Persad-Bissessar also announced that her government is reviewing the country's "archaic Defamation Laws" with the intention to bring them more in line with international best practice.
"You will certainly be kept informed on the progress of the review, which is in the very capable hands of the Attorney General, Senator the Honourable Anand Ramlogan," she said.
She urged media to take a 360 degree perspective of the world of Journalism.
"Today, in the spirit of the Christmas season, which invites all of us to look within to our own thoughts and examine our actions; I encourage you to make that 360 degree gaze more personal.
"Let us rise above personal agendas and partisan interests for the sake of the greater good and the continued growth, development and prosperity of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago," she declared.
|Journalists hang out with PM Kamla at Thursday's Christmas luncheon for the media|