The Grenada Human Rights Organisation (GHRO) is appealing to all arms of the state to recognise the rights and role of the media, by facilitating laws that would allow for the smooth flow of information.
This call follows an article published in the March 30 edition of THE NEW TODAY newspaper, headlined ‘”Media Workers Harassed by Court Officer,” which highlights an incident where the reporters were told by a Court Clerk to “lower their cameras,” while they were outside the courtroom attempting to capture the picture of a man, who is facing charges of assault and threatening language, after physically assaulting a senior female freelance journalist, while she was carrying out her duties.
According to Education and Advocacy Officer of GHRO, Mary Rivera, the March 30 article, brings into focus the relationship between the media and the judiciary as media workers practice their profession without a define policy guide.
Speaking with THE NEW TODAY last week Thursday, Rivera called on the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG), to “define the parameter under, which members of the media, especially in areas of court, et cetera, to be given guidelines as to what can and cannot happen”.
“What we would like MWAG to do is to ensure (that) as the umbrella organisation that is committed to protecting the interest of all media professionals and individuals, we believe that in the interest of transparency (because) the public has the right to know; and how will they know, there ought to be given the kind of support and access to media practitioners,” she declared.
“…In other words, there ought not to be anything to prevent the media from accessing information,” the GHRO official added while explaining that accessing information is not just a matter of words only.
“Taking a photo is also accessing information (because) you want to bring to the public the person that you are talking about, so denying a photo intentionally can also be seen as a breach (of media workers rights).
“So basically, there ought to be systems put in place to ensure that literally there is transparency, accountability, the rule of law and that the public becomes aware of the information gathered.
“As an organisation, we (GHRO) believe in the good governance agenda and we believe MWAG should also adopt and should encourage the practice of the good governance agenda.
Meanwhile, with regards to the issue of transparency and accountability, Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) President, Wesley Gibbings, has previously expressed the view that enacting a freedom of information legislation, would send a strong global message “that regional governments have nothing to hide, especially when it comes to the expenditure of public funds and the use of state resources (and) will further empower media workers to disseminate information.”
The ACM President also suggested that such legislation should “cover as many areas of public concern as possible…and should involve many areas of governmental activity as possible.”
There is access to information laws in Belize, Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, while there has been no advancement in Guyana on its version of the law.
In 2008, the then ruling Tillman Thomas-led Congress administration had drafted a Freedom of Information Act, to facilitate the free flow and access of information, not only for the media, but ordinary citizens as well.
However, 10 years later in 2018, Grenada remains among 12 Caribbean countries that are yet to enact Freedom of Information legislation.
Speaking on this issue in an interview with THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday, MWAG President, Kern Mason noted that, while calls have been made for the draft Freedom of Information Bill to be taken off the shelf, “it is up to legal minds to look into it and see whether or not it is beneficial to them at this time.”
Mason also expressed the view that all and sundry need to come together to lobby for the bill to become a reality “because at the end of the day, MWAG is not the only one that will benefit.”
The media is often referred to as the fourth estate and a major pillar in Western democracies.