THE PRESS IS ONE OF THE CRITICAL PILLARS OF OUR DEMOCRACY – VAZ


It is with pleasure that I address the Press Association of Jamaica and more specifically its latest inductees. You are practitioners in an industry which is one of the critical pillars of our relatively fledgling democracy. I note with satisfaction that in the sixty five years that this organization has existed, the hallmark of its mission has been to encourage the highest levels of journalistic professionalism.
The Press Association Of Jamaica (PAJ)
I note with equal pleasure that over those many years, the PAJ has been a part of Jamaica’s political ethos to promote and facilitate the media.
Press Freedom
It therefore comes as no surprise that International Indices produced by Reporters Without Borders (among others) ranks Jamaica as one of the leading countries in the world relative to Press Freedom. In 2008 we were 21st of well over one hundred countries ahead of the US, the UK, France and other countries often regarded as standard bearers of liberty.
Scoping the future of the media landscape
So for us then, our collective efforts in scoping the future of the media landscape is not so much focused on securing press freedom (though we must always jealously guard it) but on deepening and widening the benefits to be derived from it. In other words your audience :- Jamaica’s citizens and the wider public must be the beneficiary of the dissemination of accurate and credible information. Journalists in the modern environment where information is sought over multiple and interactive platforms must, to remain relevant:
. Instantaneously and continuously, meet the challenge of making thorough and probing enquiries, across a wide range of anticipated interests;. Cater by way of multiple genres to the widening preferences of a discriminating, diverse and highly exposed audience; and . Compete with traditional and emerging media which have exploded by way of sheer number over a period of just a few years
Individual rights
All without encroaching on the individual rights of those who are the subject of your reporting and of course without sacrificing the quality of output and high ethical standards for the press upon which our democracy rests.
It is ladies and gentlemen a tremendous privilege and responsibility with which you are charged and a tremendous balance must be struck in your exercise of them.
Defamation Laws
It is in fact with due regard to these imperatives that the Honourable Prime Minister appointed a high level Committee to examine our Defamation Laws which benefitted then from your representation and experience through the membership of your own Mr Desmond Richards and that process now continues through the active review of a Parliamentary Committee established for the purpose of examining the recommendations contained in the Report of the Hugh Small led Committee. I can say in advance on behalf of Government that the approach to be taken to the subject is not just scrutiny of the technical elements which attend legislative reform but an examination of the range of broader considerations which impact upon the practical components of the trade.
Media Policy Review
The same guiding principle is accepted in the review of the media policy now underway which of necessity will have to embrace in a comprehensive way:
. Preservation and promotion of indigenous content . The complexities and treatment of new and emerging media – which we believe must be leveraged for the development of the country and the region, but must also answer to the dictates of the rule of law and security for its users and consumers – with an emphasis on the vulnerable (our youth) ;. Technical and quality standards of media output. sustainability of the traditional electronic media and the imperative to keep pace with new standards in transmission (I refer of course to the matter of switching from analogue methods of delivery to Digital as a case in point) . matters of competition, diversity and plurality. service to the underserved interests through public service broadcasting. certainty in regulation in fast evolving, multiplying and converging media platforms and in a media landscape with expanded borders among many other issues.
It is by now clear to all stakeholders that the only sure way to arrive at best possible solutions is to be evidenced based; to retire individual interests and to engage as Jamaicans first in the formulation of new policies and identification of a suitable legal and regulatory framework which will address and enable all the components which comprise the media.
A commitment to facilitate open and timely dialogue with all
I take this opportunity to share that while the variables and challenges are evidently many, and while it is acknowledged that the new modern structures which may emerge might be for us considered unchartered territory, I bring to the responsibilities which I have been given for the Information Subject, a commitment to facilitate open and timely dialogue with all of you; my determination to see to a job well done and in the shortest possible time; and most of all a confidence in the process of governance and the cadre of professionals in media which have already – in the young life of this country – already seen to:
– the liberalization and exponential growth of the print and traditional electronic media – (regionally and islandwide); – The introduction of the delivery of Cable Services and indigenous Independent Programme Providers (for Cable); – Expansions in Cable service delivery from solely by zone to island wide – and this period promises to herald wireless transmission of Cable services.
A Strong and Creative Media Landscape
We are a country with the distinction of a media that is strong, creative, committed, second to none and equal to tasks of all sizes and shapes – to the press I say, seek out and continue to seek out, the many opportunities for journalists to disseminate information, take up and participate in the consultation processes with which government has embarked relative to the legal and regulatory framework, safeguard the freedoms of the press that we will continue to enjoy a very healthy report card – go from strength to strength with God’s grace and guidance.
Again I congratulate the new members being admitted to the Press Association of Jamaica.
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