Wednesday, 28 October 2009

No Plans to License says CARICOM SG

During a telephone conversation with the Caricom Secretary-General Edwin Carrington today, I was informed by the Secretary-General that the licensing of journalists has never been raised at any meeting of any official organ of the Caribbean Community.

He said he knew nothing about such a proposal and that any suggestion that the licensing of journalists was envisaged by the Secretariat "is not true."

I told him that a statement on the issue was made by Timothy Odle of the Caricom Secretariat at a workshop in St Lucia on October 13 at which the heads of several media organisations and institutions were present, including the ACM, CBU and CARIMAC. Media representatives from about 10 Caricom Member States were also present. I am aware that the presentation was also recorded.

Mr Carrington has given the assurance that such a measure has never been contemplated by either the Community or the Secretariat.

He said any proposal to set standards and to better facilitate the free movement of media workers in the region had to be generated by the media themselves.

I am relieved to hear this from the Caricom Secretary-General. Hopefully, this means the end of any such soundings from the regional secretariat and that it is never contemplated by any Caricom Member State in the future.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Licensing of Journalists - Feedback

A story in the Trinidad Newsday of October 24 quotes Attorney General, John Jeremie, as saying the proposal to license journalists would be "ridiculous" if it were in fact true and not an "urban myth".

I suppose having only weeks ago returned to the post he could not have been briefed on every single thing. But this is a good sign that at least in one CARICOM country the proposal offered by regional technocrats will not reach very far.

There has also been very supportive feedback from some leading Caribbean personalities.

Here's hoping this battle ends soon.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Licensing of Journalists

A few misguided people at the CARICOM Secretariat will try soon to get Caribbean governments to agree to model legislation that will have the effect of imposing a licensing regime on journalists and other media workers.

The move is actually part of an attempt to 'regularise' the status of professionals in a wide range of disciplines in the context of the CSME in the mistaken belief that this will somehow improve the 'marketability' of Caribbean professionals.

Apart from this premise being absolute nonsense, there is the dangerous suggestion that the licensing of journalists will help lift standards, especially if minimum training and other conditions are met.

The Model legislation is entitled the 'Model Professional Services Bill'.

The subject was raised by a CARICOM official in a rather routine manner at a CSME workshop in St Lucia on October 12.

I immediately advised that this matter is not subject to negotiation and that it will have to be contested and withdrawn as a proposal with any impact on media workers.

It is a well-established fact that the licensing of journalists constitutes an outright threat to freedom of the press and other rights. There is also useful judicial opinion on this through the Costa Rica case of 1985 and several other matters that reached the US and other courts.

The ACM is moving quickly to nip this in the bud. We are inviting a senior CARICOM official to discuss this matter with us at the forthcoming Conference and Fifth Biennial General Meeting in Grenada on December 10-12, 2009. Hopefully, the outcome will be a very clear message to have this withdrawn as a proposal to CARICOM Member States.

This is dangerous territory and I am urging everyone use the tools at our disposal to publicise this issue and to act decisively to ensure the model Bill, especially as it relates to media workers, does not reach anywhere near our parliaments.