PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad –Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley says he found it “difficult” to accept the allegation of there being no press freedom in Trinidad and Tobago.
This after he was called upon to state the criteria used by his office to allow journalists to cover press briefings at the Diplomatic Centre.
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“If there’s a press conference at the Prime Minister’s residence and we invite TV6, CNC3, TTT, Channel 5, even Loop of the modern era, I find it difficult to accept that it is said that if I don’t allow every media Mary and Johnny that there is no press freedom in Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley told journalists attending a function organized by his ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) on Monday night.
Rowley said he “will preserve the prerogative of the Prime Minister’s office to invite mainstream media to Prime Minister’s press conferences,” adding “when we think we have 12 or 14 media houses, we think we’re covering the ground very well, and therefore tonight we plead ‘not guilty’.”
He said that by law, government information is gazetted and shared with the public, and in some cases with daily newspapers as required.
Last weekend, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) said its membership had raised questions over the criteria for inviting journalists to cover press briefings at the Diplomatic Centre after some of them said they were barred from participating in a news conference there.
“The MATT executive agrees that concerns regarding the selection process for attendance at the Diplomatic Centre are valid and must be addressed to ensure fair access to all media practitioners in the public interest.
“With the relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions, the Prime Minister’s office has yet to provide either guidance or criteria for access to press conferences held at the Diplomatic Centre,” MATT said, adding that “if interested media houses are denied access to question the Prime Minister about his announcements and a list of specially invited media guides invitations, there should be clarity about what qualifies one media house as “special” over another.
“All practicing journalists should have an opportunity to question the government in person, and if space or social distancing is a concern, as it was during pandemic restrictions, then an opportunity to rotate journalists for access should be the norm,” MATT said in its statement. (CMC)