And with that internal hurdle considered “done” by Ministry officials, they also addressed the external hurdle that a media boycott on Police affairs had become. The boycott was imposed on October 12, signalling a severe breakdown in communication between the two entities. For the media, access to a free flow of information in particular with issues of high public interest is key. For the Police, it has seemed, the provision of information is subjective to their views. The boycott lasted until today when discussions at a meeting led to an agreement that the Police will not impede information to the public.
Allen Whylie – Commissioner of Police
“Am glad to say that the boycott from the media is over so we have agreed that twice per week Senior officers will be made available that will be doing Press briefings to the media here at the Raccoon Street conference room, we’ve also agreed that in respect to the out districts the head national Crimes Investigations branch would be responsible to do those briefings we’ve kept intact the fact that request will be made through the Belize Police Department Press Office up to the Commissioner who would review those matters on the case by case bases.”
George Lovell, CEO
“I think it was a sort of impasse that we had on both sides and that we have agreed that we will put in place a mechanism which will be like a sort of safety valve where the trigger for that particular safety valve will be from all the media houses getting together and there will be one point of contact where they will communicate back with the colleagues and that point of contact would be Isany and the trigger would be where you all will agree amongst yourselves that we are at the point where we need to put in place or activate this safety valve and you all as a group will agree on that and Isany will be used as the point of contact to get to the police so that there is not confusion, there is no misunderstanding as to how we go forward in order to ensure that we do not go back this path again.”
While it is hoped that this new framework between the Police Department and media will bring about better relations, it is clear from an interview with the Minister of Police Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington done last Friday that information to the public through the media will continue to be filtered to some extent.
Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington - Minister of Home Affairs
“We will determine in the police department how the news is to be disseminated, that’s our responsibility, when we think there is a need for a Press Conference we will do that, when we think that the society is best served by a Press Release we will do that and so we will always give the information but I don’t think it is helpful I think it is actually is it harmful for the police to speculate on matters that are under investigation; yes there was a shooting these people were injured they were taken to the hospital, all that can be given a Press Release but to find out is it drug related, was it killed by a relative, most people don’t know and to speculate on that to my mind does more harm than good specially when we trying to persecute them and as you would have noticed the record or persecution is not the best so we are trying to do something about it, it is government’s responsibility. I think that the media and the government has to be partners we can’t be fighting because we live in the same society and we want the same thing for our people, we want safety, we want security, we want transparency, we want accountability but we don’t want to be misled, we don’t want to give the people fake news as President Trump would say, we want to minimize that, we do a disservice to the nation when we come out with these; look at what happened when this young Usher was lost the news that came out all suggested that the GSU had done some harm, none of it was true you see that got the entire society set angry people felt like very emotional about it and it all turned out to have been fake news so when you dealing with me in particular because of the seriousness of the security if the nation and the citizens I prefer to error on the side of caution let me make sure that whatever I say anything it is accurate, correct and it cannot be contradicted.”
In addition to the press releases and interviews, the Police and media have established easy and quick communication through whatsapp. The Police say they acknowledge the efficiency of that system and will maintain it.
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