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  • Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, has reiterated her call for the media to establish its own self-regulatory body.
  • The Minister was addressing a symposium on developing a framework for media self-regulation, held on Wednesday, October 29, at CARIMAC.
  • Miss Falconer urged the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Media Association Jamaica (MAJ) to work together to set up such a body, which should also protect the rights of citizens, by giving those who feel wronged, a place to get redress.

Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, has reiterated her call for the media to establish its own self-regulatory body.

“The media already have a set of shared values and ethics underpinning the profession and how it operates. Those are important prerequisites to self-regulation and I don’t believe it will be difficult to take that next important step to establish that independent body, which will oversee and administer your code of practice,” she said.

The Minister was addressing a symposium on developing a framework for media self-regulation, held on Wednesday, October 29, at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC), University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

Miss Falconer urged the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Media Association Jamaica (MAJ) to work together to set up such a body, which should also protect the rights of citizens, by giving those who feel wronged, a place to get redress.

She suggested that the regulatory body should cover issues such as accuracy, privacy, misrepresentation, harassment and discrimination.

“It should also provide a swift, transparent, simple and cost-free mechanism to resolve complaints from members of the public, arising from editorial conduct and content, which are possible breaches of your code of conduct,” she noted.

She assured the media practitioners in attendance that the Government does not believe in any State regulation or censorship of the media “and we will never go that route,” but stressed that with freedom, “there must be responsibility.”

The Information Minister said regulation and press freedom can “coexist” but a regulatory mechanism or framework such as a press council or a media complaints authority has to be set up to protect the rights of customers, “and will also protect and promote your cherished freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

Minister Falconer said the media must be accountable to the people they serve, stressing that people, who want a voice or need redress, should not have to depend on a letter to the editor, which the editor has no obligation to publish.

“It should not be that when you publish or carry a story that damages someone, that person has to ‘suck it up’, or wait till you grudgingly remedy the error, if you do so at all,” she said.

She further noted that Jamaica has had an “enviable record of press freedom,” noting that the passage of the defamation law last year, which abolishes criminal libel “represented an important step in our democratic journey.”

In the meantime, Chairman of the MAJ, Christopher Barnes, said the association supports self-regulation, practised individually by media houses.

“We do not subscribe to the view that external bodies or forces other than our reading or viewing public and the courts in the case of libel and defamation, should be allowed to adjudicate and penalise on matters of breach of the codes that we adopt,” he said.

“We believe in managing our own affairs and remaining independent in order to truly provide that plurality of views that this country needs,” he added.

Communication and Information Consultant, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Caribbean, Kingston Office, Dr. Günther Cyranek, welcomed the staging of the seminar, noting that it is important for local media practitioners to see self-regulation in a regional perspective.

Meanwhile, member of the Association of Caribbean Mediaworkers (ACM) and immediate Past President of the PAJ, Byron Buckley, informed that the seminar is the fourth and final in a series of consultations being hosted by ACM around the region. Others were held in Guyana, St. Lucia and Trinidad.

“This forum is really about consulting among ourselves as to whether or not there should be some kind of self-regulatory framework so that we can address quality assurance and accountability in the media sector,” he said.

The seminar was sponsored by UNESCO, the International Press Institute (IPI), PAJ and CARIMAC.

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