Ironclad Press Rules Imposed by Press Secretary Will Make it Harder to Hold Davis’ Administration Accountable
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With only two weeks in the seat as press secretary, former Journalist and News Director Clint Watson imposed stringent rules for the press that will make it harder for reporters to hold the new government accountable.
The new rules include guidelines for special interviews, scheduled interviews and accreditation.
Here are the new guidelines
- Absolutely no interviews should take place while the Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister is attending an event unless they are approved by the press secretary.
- Random Cabinet Office interviews will be discontinued.
- Only accredited journalists and staff will be permitted into Cabinet and OPM briefings.
- Reporters requesting specific responses to issues, should communicate with the Press Secretary Office by 6 pm the latest, the night before the briefing.
- All requests for interviews and comments from the Prime Minister and Cabinet will be facilitated through the press secretary.
- Reporters without a boom stand will not be permitted to participate in interviews.
- The press secretary or an officer from the OPM will advise at the event if the prime minister will be taking interviews and the parameters of such an interview. Failure to comply could result in credentials being reconsidered from the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister press pool.
- The dress code should be business attire unless otherwise specified.
- A press officer will indicate the final question toward the end of the briefing, no further questions should be asked thereafter.
- Accreditation forms should be filled out by media houses and submitted to the Office of the Press Secretary for approval.
These hard rules would allow Davis and his Cabinet ministers to dodge reporters’ questions and evade responses to pressing and controversial matters.
Most newsworthy stories come when reporters ask questions on the sidelines of a public event. The powers of the press secretary as indicated by these rules, show that the new government desires to suppress information and limit what the public knows.
Watson, as a former journalist, knows this but has quickly changed positions since acquiring the new role.
In his former position as host of Beyond the Headlines, Watson consistently condemned the former administration, accusing them of avoiding the press. Now, he has created strict rules to silence the press, punish the media if they do not adhere, and ensure Davis and his ministers say less to the public.
Why does he see the need to protect them from the public? Why should he determine who gets access to public servants?
Watson’s role should be to manage and organize communications activities on behalf of the new government.
These rules are a return to the Pindling era when news media was heavily restricted.
Former Health Minister Duane Sands expressed his displeasure with the rules.
Journalists have taken to social media to decry the new press guidelines.
Based on the reading of the rulings, journalists could have credentials revoked. This could have an adverse effect on the public who wants to hold the government accountable.