Government Affirms Commitment To Freedom Of The Press


In keeping with government’s unequivocal commitment to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, government has encouraged and facilitated wide participation in media ownership.
This was affirmed on Sunday (Feb. 8) by Minister of Information Senator Burchell Whiteman, while making a presentation on behalf of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, at the official opening of the Jamaica Observer Limited at 40-42 Beechwood Avenue in Kingston.
He said that the media landscape had been broadened in ways, which prior to 1992 were thought not possible.
“Today, Jamaicans have access to 13 radio stations with island-wide coverage and an increasing number of local radio stations. We have granted licenses against a broad policy of providing not only greater variety of programming, but of ensuring that local communities are given a voice as well,” Mr. Whiteman stated.
In addition to three free to air television stations, government has awarded 42 subscriber television licenses to operators and is taking steps to facilitate the strengthening of local capacity so that local and community based programming can reflect an even higher standard of quality in both technical and content areas.
“Add this to the use of information technology and the Internet which provides a diversity of means of access and which expands the reach of any single media outlet exponentially,” the Information Minister noted, adding that government was fully appreciative of the link between the vibrancy of the media and itself. He noted that since the Access to Information Act was implemented last month, many of the applications received for official documents had come from media houses and media practitioners.
“As the Observer continues to achieve the aim common to all media, to inform, entertain and educate, I am confident that I can rely on your contribution to this critical undertaking based on your fine record of exemplary support for the education process,” Senator Whiteman said, pointing out that students at different levels had benefited from the structured offerings which the paper currently provided. “I urge you to develop some new approaches in your paper that will give assistance to this very important effort.
It is imperative that we achieve a greater return on our sizeable investments in human and social capital. Nothing less will serve our nation in the global environment of this twenty-first century,” he added.
He said the Observer had made history in the annals of Jamaican journalism as the staff of the young newspaper had proven beyond doubt against the odds that Jamaica could support a second daily newspaper if it was of the requisite quality.
Turning to the issue of national development, Minister Whiteman said that as government re-doubled its efforts to achieve economic growth for the benefit of the nation, there were heartening signs that the entire society was now “seized of the urgent need to develop a new level of togetherness”.
He noted that new initiatives had been proposed by the private sector and that representatives of the public sector and the entire work force of Jamaica were combining their ideas and resolves to forge a more collaborative framework to achieve national progress. “In all of this, I sense a sincere understanding that we can no longer afford to allow parochial, sectoral or partisan considerations to supersede the national good.” He further challenged the 10-year-old Jamaica Observer to be an active participant and a leading force in this national effort and to engage the considerable resources of the organization for the success of this new environment.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Jamaica Observer, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart in his address, thanked the staff for their continued hard work and commitment over the years. “We set new standards. At the time, it seemed like monumental task, but we said, we would survive and whatever it took, it would be given to ensure that the Observer became an institution that stood the test of time,” Mr. Stewart said, pointing out that the newspaper had set several precedents over the years, among them, being the first paper to publish in full colour.
The function was attended by hundreds of guests from various sectors of the society, including Ministers of Government, hoteliers and members of the diplomatic corps.

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