Tuesday, April 30, 2013

T&T committed to media freedom AG tells IPI head

IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel-McKenzie
The Executive Director of the International Press Institute (IPI) was on Monday assured that the government of Trinidad and Tobago is committed to a media freedom.

The assurance came from Attorney General Anand Ramlogan when the IPI chief Alison Bethel-McKenzie met with Ramlogan.

“The Attorney General warmly received Bethel-McKenzie and was happy to continue the dialogue that was started when the Government hosted the IPI World Congress 2012, in June 2012, for the Americas,” a media release from the Office of the Attorney General stated.

Last year, Ramlogan met with an IPI delegation to discuss the constitutional right of the freedom of the press in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

On Monday he discussed with the IPI head the issues of the abolition of criminal libel and the exemption of journalists from the Data Protection Act.

“The need for journalists to protect their sources of information and remain outside the regular cut and thrust of adversarial political debate was also a matter which the Attorney General raised in the context of recent developments in the local media,” the AG’s office disclosed.

“The Attorney General reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to a free press and said recent events in the Government underscored the strength of the independent media in Trinidad and Tobago and the vital role it played in the development of democracy in a free and fair society that is committed to the rule of law.”

Bethel-McKenzie has said that Trinidad and Tobago "is blessed" with a free and independent media. 

In an email to JYOTI's Jai Parasram earlier this month in response to a letter defending media freedom in T&T she stated: 

"The media environment in Trinidad and Tobago, though not without some controversy, remains one of the freest in the Caribbean. 

"The island nation is blessed with a free and independent media as well as the constitutional guarantee of a free press. And for that, we are grateful. 

"I also agree with you that Her Excellency Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been more than supportive of the media and was among the first Caribbean leaders to pledge to repeal criminal defamation in Trinidad. We are also grateful for that."

She said sometimes when politicians are critical of the media it forces self-censorship but at the same time she made it clear that politicians have the right to express their views too.

"I do support free speech and would never venture to silence a politician or anyone else for speaking their views; nonetheless, one could argue, particularly in certain cultures, that there is a fine distinction between free speech and decorum."

She added, "Indeed, no freedom is free. With freedom comes responsibility and the media must uphold its pledge to obey journalistic best practices and the industry’s code of ethics...

"Should businessmen, politicians or anyone be hanged, drawn and quartered for chastising the press, of course not! 

"Media is not above the law, nor is it our position that all media is beyond reproach – quite the contrary. We aggressively promote training for journalists (and hope to engage in that endeavour in Trinidad later this year) and a vocal when journalists cross the line."

Bethel McKenzie subsequently wrote an open letter to media in Trinidad and Tobago on the importance of good journalism.

Read the letter:

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai