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MATT responds to AG’s comments on media oversight

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Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC – File photo

The Media Association of TT (MATT) has noted “with some concern” remarks made earlier this week by Attorney General Reginald Armour with respect to the regulation and training of traditional media practitioners and social media “journalists.”

MATT issued a statement on Friday, two days after the Public Relations Association of TT hosted a seminar titled Communications Conversations.

Wednesday’s forum included discussions and presentations from high-ranking government officials, including Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga, Armour, and well-known media figures, who were specially invited to form a panel discussion.

Armour spoke about the role of journalists and governing organisations.

In the statement, MATT said, “It would not be out of line to acknowledge that the AG was being deliberately provocative…” considering the setting for the forum.

Armour made a number of references to the role of bloggers and social commentary in the context of journalistic responsibility.

He questioned whether media houses and other organisations were doing enough to train journalists, and at times seemingly conflated social commentary and journalism, saying questions must be asked about the definition of media with the rise of social media.

“What responsibility do media owners have for media and information literacy education of the…journalists and media practitioners they employ?” Armour asked.

“What percentage of money is employed by the media houses in training journalists and members of staff in artificial intelligence and digital technology?”

In response, MATT, headed by veteran journalist and author Ira Mathur, wrote, “MATT suggests that the AG considers that journalism is the result of the work of journalists and is as plainly evident to the casual observer as the difference between informed legal opinion and rum shop opinions.”

The statement continued, “MATT has acted to represent the journalist collective in Trinidad and Tobago for more than three and a half decades and has acknowledged the information dissemination role that PR practitioners play and the presence of bloggers attracting audiences with journalism and journalism adjacent commentary through a non-voting role in the association.

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“In that regard, MATT is willing to provide oversight and guidance to these practitioners who align with its core principles and constitution.”

The organisation, MATT said, upholds the principle that journalists are well-equipped and capable of self-policing their own work “without the need for regulation, government oversight or any other unwelcome effort to constrain the free expression guaranteed by the TT constitution to its citizens.”

MATT observed that recent judgements have demonstrated that “existing legal regimes can address the most outrageous abuses of free speech.

“For his part, the AG might wish to convey to his colleagues in Cabinet the value of operating with greater transparency and accessibility, allowing journalists to report fairly and without political obfuscation.”

Newsday asked the TT Publishers and Broadcasters Association for its thoughts on the AG’s comments. However, the association’s president Douglas Wilson said he was unaware of Armour’s comments, and did not respond by the time of publication.