The Government of Jamaica is looking to implement an appropriate social media policy to more effectively engage ordinary Jamaicans in decision making.
Minister with Responsibility for Information in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Sandrea Falconer, made the revelation as she addressed a special breakfast in observance of World Press Freedom Day held Thursday May 3 at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.
Declaring that governments must stay connected to the people, Ms. Falconer said, “we have to use social media as one of the new opportunity voices for transforming our society. By challenging ourselves to use social media, we will allow more people to participate in our democracy."
She challenged traditional media to involve these voices and channel their input into constructive engagement and change. “The future journalist, I believe, will become more embedded in the community more than ever and news outlets will have to build their newsrooms to focus on utilising the community and enabling its members to be enrolled as correspondents,” she argued.
Minister Falconer stated that rather than seeing social media as a threat, it should be embraced as something that is complementary to the work of the journalist and more use made of the facility for development and progress.
The breakfast was hosted jointly by the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the theme: ‘New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies’.
The function was highlighted by the honouring of late journalists Hugh Crosskill, Theodore Sealy, and Len Nembhard as the first three inductees in the PAJ inaugural Hall of Fame.
Veteran journalist and Managing Director of Nationwide News Network, Cliff Hughes, who delivered the keynote address, lamented the relatively low internet penetration in Jamaica. He emphasised the tremendous potential that the networked environment presents for enhancing business as well as the generation of employment opportunities.
UNESCO Representative, Dr. Kwame Boafo, conveyed the joint World Press Freedom Day message from United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova.
The message emphasised that “freedom of expression is one of our most precious rights” as it “underpins every other freedom and provides a foundation for human dignity."
"We call on states, professional media and non-governmental organisations everywhere to join forces with the United Nations to promote online and offline freedom of expression in accordance with internationally accepted principles. This is a pillar of individual rights, a foundation for healthy societies and a force for social transformation,” the message read.
May 3 has been designated World Press Freedom Day by the UN to raise awareness and promote the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter