MINISTER of Communications Symon de Nobriga denied the Government had decided to exclude new media or non-traditional media from its media conferences, speaking on Tuesday in the Senate in reply to a motion on the adjournment by Opposition Senator Wade Mark.
Mark had complained that named reporters had experienced problems in getting admitted to post Cabinet briefings, including Prior Beharry of the online media house AZP News and Robert Amar of More FM 104.7 Radio. Mark accused Government of posing a threat to media freedom and democracy.
De Nobriga retorted that Mark's claims were "invalid, baseless and erroneous."
"I wish to reiterate this Government's position, that there is no decision to exclude non-traditional media from any government press conference," de Nobriga said.
He said TT had in recent years seen an explosion in established media houses which now numbered 40, some of which included multiple platforms, plus traditional and non-traditional media. De Nobriga said he'd be quite willing to meet the Media Association (MATT) and the Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA).
He proposed that both MATT and the TTPBA undertake to provide accreditation of the country's media practitioners, to serve for admission to government briefings, plus those by businesses and NGOs.
"There will be some measure of assuredness that nobody fancying themselves a journalist or media practitioner can demand admission to a press conference." He also suggested a rotation of reporters attending the Government's news briefings.
De Nobriga said this Government had held the most press briefings out of any administration.
He said briefings held during the pandemic had notified the general public of the existence of AZP News.
He quipped that during those briefings, the words "as of midnight tonight," had become a stock phrase, popularised by the Prime Minister variously announcing new restrictions or liberalisations during the height of the pandemic.
"Our Prime Minister never shied away from the media," de Nobriga recalled, saying while one may disagree with Dr Rowley's personal style, he has never hidden from the media or avoided speaking at media conferences.
De Nobriga said under the Government, TT had advanced in the World Press Freedom Index from position 25 out of 180 countries last year, up from 41st place in 2015.
Referring to Mark, de Nobriga asked aloud who had been Speaker when the House of Representatives voted for a no-confidence motion against Rowley, who was put out of the House, with his constituents being denied his representation?
De Nobriga said the UNC has had 400 Monday night forum events since 2014, but at none, had Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar been available for reporters to grill, similarly for the party's regular briefings on Sundays (numbering 75 so far) and Thursdays, (numbering 50 so far.)
Saying Government understands the need for all media, he quoted former US President John F. Kennedy, “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed and no republic can survive.”