In January, we reported on the revised approach to police-media relations, where only the police press officers are authorized to disseminate information or give interviews on crime matters. That policy change stripped formation commanders of their freedom to engage the press, and basically muzzled them with a gag order.
It wasn't an ideal situation for us, the media, but we gave it a try. Well, according to media practitioners, that model has crashed and its affecting the free flow of information that we share with you, our viewers.
Our News Director Jules Vasquez has been engaged in this process from the start and this week he called on his colleagues to institute a media-wide boycott of all police events. Today, he explained why it has come to this:
Jules Vasquez - News Director, 7 News
"There has been since January there has been a complete reordering of the way police interface with the media and so all the officers commanding who are empowered to speak freely with the media, all that power has been taken away, all the autonomy has been taken away and as we all have reported there is now a public relations office, a WhatsApp chat group in which everything should be dealt with but what we, all media workers have been finding is that the person charged with up keeping the free flow of information in that chat group has been completely inattentive in the execution of their duties. So that we don't have the news that we use to get, the news we could access, the information we could access and it's not information that we want, it's for the public, it's for the public to know. So we have weekends of spectacular violence where the public needs to know are the police doing anything. Do we have active and engaged law enforcement and we are unable to get even a press briefing. We no di ask unno fi the officers commanding, they said that's off limit, good let's work with the model but the model has failed and then they want us to come out just like we are their press officers. We are the press officers, press officers and we are to come out for certain events and they just strut us out, they break we off a lee something and then we're supposed to be happy? No there has to be reciprocity, it is a two way street and until we have that, until we have that fully resort, respect and reciprocity, we will not cover any more police event."
The boycott continues pending a dialogue with the higher ups at the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Police Senior Command. They have requested a complaint in writing.