SOME journalists had been left in an ungainly place on Monday night time when the Prime Minister, talking at a “combine and mingle” cocktail occasion hosted by the PNM for the media, threw delicate however repeated jabs at the exact same media.
Dozens of MPs, senators and different high-ranking get together members welcomed media personnel for a cordial night on the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain on Monday night.
Nevertheless, the tone of the occasion took a slight flip when Dr Rowley delivered a 12-minute speech by which he focused the Media Affiliation of TT (MATT) and small, unbiased journalists after issues had been raised not too long ago in regards to the coverage for deciding which journalists had been invited to information conferences hosted by the Workplace of the Prime Minister.
In reality, the PM opened his tackle a few seemingly flattering story about his want to be a journalist when he was in highschool.
Rowley mentioned he was unable to make the grades in English literature, so he “stayed away from writing for a residing” and ended up in “the science the place two plus two is at all times 4.”
He then instantly turned to a latest newspaper editorial which mirrored a few of the sentiments raised by MATT about journalists’ entry to the PM’s information conferences.
Whereas the PM talked about no names or media homes throughout his tackle, he presumably referred to on-line media firm AZP Information and 104.7 FM radio proprietor Robert Amar in his stinging indictment of MATT’s issues.
AZP Information and its editor-in-chief Prior Beharry not too long ago voiced complaints about their incapability to entry information conferences hosted by the OPM. Beharry was current on the cocktail occasion and was visibly uncomfortable.
Amar additionally complained final week about being escorted out of a information convention on the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.
“MATT mentioned it’s unacceptable to have perhaps no coverage with respect to who involves the press convention. Generally issues are in such plain view that it is invisible. The coverage is by invitation,” Rowley retorted.
“As a result of if there was no invitation, all people who labels themselves ‘media’ will demand (to be) entitled to show up on the press convention – leaders of political events, candidates, sponsors of vulgarity and insults, those that rent themselves out by the hour or half-hour for good cash to extort from folks if such individuals wish to defend their good title. That is happening in TT.”
Rowley mentioned he finds it troublesome to simply accept that if invites usually are not despatched out to “each Media Mary and Johnny, then there is no such thing as a press freedom in TT and that what I ought to do is rotate invites if a set quantity (of journalists is invited).
“I inform you although, that personally I feel I’ve an excellent report with communication and the media,” he mentioned noting his former place as chairman on a committee which led to dwell broadcasts of Parliament proceedings.
He mentioned he was the primary opposition chief to host weekly information conferences and area questions from the media at size.
“(Then I am instructed) that if some unknown disturbance will not be allowed into the compound, then vital questions won’t be requested.”
That, he mentioned, may suggest that the mainstream media usually are not asking the vital questions.
He referred to the journalist searching for entry to the information convention as an “unknown disturber” and a “miscreant.”
“What is that this query that’s to be requested that’s not being requested and can’t be requested and can solely be requested if individuals who’re opinion-shapers and never newsmakers or carriers (are allowed entry)?
“Girls and gents, I reserve my prerogative of the PM – the PM’s Workplace, to ask the mainstream media to PM press conferences.
“So when we’ve 12 or 14 or 15 media homes, we expect we’re masking the bottom very properly. And, subsequently, tonight we plead not responsible.”
Celebration chairman Stuart Younger opened the occasion with a brief tackle and mentioned the PNM’s sturdy relationship with the media stretched again to its foundations. Nevertheless, he sought to remind members of the get together and the media in regards to the want for mutual respect to keep up a robust relationship.
“The PNM this 12 months celebrates 66 years as a celebration and is the premier get together in the entire Caricom area. Our relationship with the media, in my respectful view, have to be primarily based on a pair issues: and by and huge, for the final 66 years as a celebration, the media can be hard-pressed to show that the PNM has not at all times revered the media,” Younger mentioned.
“There shall be cases the place you might have disagreements. In each relationship, if it’s a wholesome relationship, there shall be disagreements.”
PNM public relations officer Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing launched particular person members of the media to the various ministers, MPs, senators and members of the get together government, virtually all of whom did, in actual fact, mingle enthusiastically all through the night. Some, notably Commerce Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and Overseas Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne made the primary method and had been pleasantly conversational.
Some younger members of the media had been eager to fulfill the MPs and different dignitaries in individual for the primary time.
Many door prizes had been additionally distributed.
Throughout one of many attracts, San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi welcomed Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert to the stage at hand over one of many prizes.
Whereas doing so, Al-Rawi joked to Imbert about whether or not he had blocked the winner of the prize on Twitter, drawing a rascally chuckle from Imbert.
Imbert, an MP for over 30 years, has been criticised by members of the media for blocking journalists, reporters and even editors who pose questions or reply to him on the social media platform.
Newsday spoke with MATT once more on Tuesday. Nevertheless, the organisation mentioned it was unable to share its stance on the Prime Minister’s feedback till the chief decides on it collectively.
In any other case, MATT president Ira Mathur mentioned she would not consider MATT’s issues are about freedom of expression since “wonderful and skilled journalists attend the PM’s conferences, however one in every of process.”