Media workers in Dominica must note carefully
"Leh bab komawad ou ka bwilé wooésy sawe" – Kwéyòl proverb
At the commencement of the session of the meeting of Parliament on Tuesday last week, the Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly, Alix Boyd Knights made an attempt at explaining the unceremonious exclusion of the editor of the Sun from observing, reporting and photographing the proceedings of the Opening of Parliament on July 23rd, 2014.
In her 19-minute statement, Speaker Knights argued that the editor of the newspaper breached the rules of the House by entering through the wrong entrance, and he attempted to shoot photographs, an action he knew was prohibited and then he lied when he said he was thrown out of the House. That essentially, in a nutshell, is the Speaker's version of the incident.
Although we have noted a number of questionable remarks in the Speaker's statement to parliamentarians, in the final analysis the Sun has decided that it is counterproductive to respond further. Nevertheless, we stand by our position as we published in our editorial of last week's issue of the Sun.
However, it was obvious that the Speaker ignored the contents of the following paragraph which we have reproduced from the Sun's letter to the Clerk of the House. That paragraph reads:
"I am not aware, and my colleagues in the media inform me that they too are unaware, that the practice of taking photographs and reporting on the opening of parliament in particular, and the proceedings of parliament in general has been restricted to certain government affiliated media houses. If this is in fact the case, and I shudder to believe that it would be, it would be an affront to good governance, transparency and democracy".
That is the crux of the matter- the exclusion of non-government media from taking photographs in the House of Assembly. Instead the Speaker has suggested that Rule 83 of Standing Orders gives her the authority "to grant general permission to the representative of any journal to attend the sitting of the House under such rules that he (or she) may make from time to time for that purpose".
Madame Speaker, we humbly suggest that Standing Orders of the House of Assembly could not give anyone the authority to take such a discriminatory and biased action as the granting of exclusive access to the Government Information Service to photograph the proceedings of the House while reporters or representatives from the independent press are relegated to sitting "at the back." As we indicated in last week's editorial this exclusivity that the House of Assembly has granted to government controlled media is "an affront to good governance, transparency and democracy." You failed to address that. Nevertheless, it is now up to the Media Workers Association of Dominica (MWAD) to put itself in a position to advocate for the rights of all reporters and to ensure that all organizations and institutions, including the Dominica Parliament, demonstrate due respect for the press. Reporters should note: #### Leh bab komawad ou ka bwilé wooésy sawe.