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Response to Newsday's Editorial 'House Arrest'
Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Office of the Parliament
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
The Red House, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

Parl: 4/12/1 Vol XI

22 June 2010

Ms. Therese Mills
Editor in Chief
Daily News Ltd.
Chacon Street

Dear Ms. Mills,

I am writing in response to the Newsday’s editorial entitled "House arrest" on Tuesday June 22, 2010 in which several allegations are made against the Parliament Staff’s treatment of the media during the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament. I wish to respond to these allegations individually:

1. The media were debarred from covering the Senate proceedings
The Media were not debarred from covering the Senate proceedings. Communication from this office on June 9, 2010 asked print media to identify persons who would be covering the Senate. Due to limited space, this meant three reporters and three photographers from the daily newspapers. Several Members of the Media were in fact allowed entry to the Senate Chamber prior to the commencement of the proceedings at 1:30 p.m. on June 18, where they were able to cover the election of the President of the Senate, Vice-President of the Senate and photograph all Senators taking their oaths. All media personnel were then allowed into the main Chamber, for His Excellency’s address. The only part of the Senate proceedings not covered by the media would have been the adjournment of the Senate following its resumption.

2. The Media were held hostage in the Chamber upon the conclusion of the proceedings. This too is entirely inaccurate. On Wednesday June 16, 2010 at 10 a.m., a Media briefing session was held in the Parliament Chamber, at which time all present were made well aware that upon the conclusion of the proceedings, the media would be required to wait in their place to allow for the rapid exodus of other guests from the Chamber into the corridors then to the Rotunda of the Red House, where refreshments would be served. The media corps would then follow and join the reception. I took great pains to explain that the reason for this decision was to ensure that no interviews were carried out along the corridors leading to the Rotunda which would further slow the procession of guests and delay the arrival of the Presidential party. All media present were reassured that there would be no restrictions on interviews in the Rotunda, where they would be at liberty to speak to the members and other guests at their leisure. The Newsday chose not to send any reporters to the briefing session, but sent Mr. Rattan Jadoo, who is listed in your newspaper as the Chief Photographer. Mr. Jadoo took full part in the meeting, even asking questions for clarification. Why the information conveyed at the briefing was not communicated to the remainder of Newsday staff covering the opening, especially the writer of the editorial, is outside of the control of the Office of the Parliament. Simply put, the Parliament did its part in ensuring that the media were made aware of all arrangements well in advance of the opening. The editorial writer’s suggestion, therefore, that the Parliamentary staff showed lack of judgment due to stress of having to cope with hundreds of invited guests is condescending at best.

The staff of the Parliament always take great pains to ensure that the media, and by extension the public, receive information in a timely manner. We also strive to ensure that events of this nature take place in a sensible and orderly manner and for this we need the cooperation of many persons, including representatives of the media. The Newsday editorial of Tuesday June 22 does little to advance our efforts, being based largely on emotion, conjecture and inaccuracies of one person. Nevertheless we will continue to be professional in our conduct, and strive to improve the quality of service we provide to our various clients, including the media.

I hope that this letter is given an equally prominent placement as the editorial of June 22 in an upcoming edition of the Newsday.

Yours sincerely,

Jason Elcock
Communications Coordinator

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