President wants immunity for media
By MIRANDA LA ROSE Sunday, June 24 2012
SPEAKING of the killing of journalists in the line of duty the world over, President George Maxwell Richards called for reporters to be afforded immunity as those enjoyed by the Red Cross so that they could do their work without fear of persecution.
“This concern about the death of journalists cannot be a concern confined within the International Press Institute (IPI),” President Maxwell Richards told participants yesterday at the opening of the 60th conference of the IPI at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.
“Perhaps the time has come,” he said, “for some form of internationally recognised immunity to be agreed on as that afforded to agencies such as the Red Cross, so that the risks of journalists may be minimised, if not eradicated,” the President suggested.
Over 120 member countries of the IPI are represented at the four-day international meeting, the first of its kind to be held in the Caribbean.
Noting the risks of the media are increasing in a world that does not guarantee safety, Richards said, the reports of 110 journalists killed in 2009 alone, “give no comfort whatsoever.” To date 72 have been killed in the line of duty for this year.
Noting that “journalism is not a walk in the park,” he said, “the dangers for foreign media, as for local, are very well in areas of conflict.”
On the theme of the conference “Media in a challenging world — a 360 degree perspective”, Richards said, “the challenges will not disappear. Given the trends they may well increase, but the press freedom missions can have positive effects on dealing with situations.”
Of the topic “Moving from the newsroom to the State House — the journalist as political mouthpiece,” Richards said, “I believe this will resonate intensely with us in Trinidad and Tobago.”
On the topic “Manipulating the media — Government advertising as a reward or punishment for media outlets” Richards said he hoped the meeting comes out “with clear strategies that will enable you, by the evidence of your work, to assure your various public of an independent and responsible media, which does not rely on the one who pays the piper.” Declaring that even in schools people should be taught the appreciation of news, he said there are still passive audiences who must be jolted into reaction. “In this regard,” he said, “it is a duty beyond media practitioners.”