Sat | Mar 23, 2019

Errol McLeish | The danger of irresponsible journalism

Published:Wednesday | July 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) has expressed concern about two incidents in which the police have stopped cameramen, employed by the press, from making recordings in the public space.

One of those incidents included an operation in the Linstead area, where a soldier was killed. The concerns of the press are valid, but questions should be asked. Where does press freedom or responsible journalism start and end? And when should national-security concerns be taken into consideration in the coverage of sensitive operational matters?

The importance of the press should not be understated. Press freedom is a critical component to the concept of democracy and is a bastion of civil liberties. As the Fourth Estate, it serves as the voice, eyes and ears of the common man.

However, like all freedom, if not utilised responsibly, can lead to dangerous consequences and, therefore, should be exercised with due consideration to issues of national security.

The police, as do the press, have a responsibility. Theirs is to enforce the laws of the land and gather intelligence in the process to effectively deal with crime. Some operational duties might require secrecy to protect the identity of the police and its sources.

The fact that many of these operations are undertaken in the public space by officers who do not conceal their identity should, I think, be heavily on the minds of the press. While its members have a constitutional right to carry out their duties, they must, within reasonable grounds, ensure that national security and the identity of security-force personnel are not compromised .

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting the muzzling of the press, but rather implementation of protocol, as regards the dissemination of information, visual or otherwise, that does not compromise national security and those who are the agents of the State enforcing the law.

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