The Media Accreditation Policy 2022 was published in the National Gazette on September 16, 2022, without having reached consensus with the media and without prior notification.
PHILIPSBURG--The media corps of St. Maarten firmly disagrees with the Media Accreditation Policy 2022 as published by government in the National Gazette on September 16 without prior notification. The media will explore all possible remedies available to them to hold Government accountable for what they see as a breach of integrity.
On Wednesday October 12, during the Council of Ministers press briefing, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs stated that “the government doesn’t have to be in agreement with the media”. The Media Accreditation Policy 2022, she said, “is a government policy” and “we have adjusted and amended as much as we were willing to do.”
The Prime Minister erroneously stated that the technical working group that was launched in May to hold discussions with the media, had a mandate from Government to establish the Media Accreditation Policy. Head of the working group, Maurice Lake, at the start of the discussions at the Government Building made it clear to the members of the media present that the working group had no mandate from government, that its members were assigned to advise the Council of Ministers and that the government would decide on the recommendations made.
At no point during the following months, with policy advisors and media reviewing the draft Media Accreditation Policy, was there a talk or notice in writing that the technical work group had been given a mandate by government. Lake and the policy advisors in the work group acknowledged that that policy at hand was a draft policy, the media corps stressed.
After seeing the draft policy published as final in the National Gazette, journalist Darlene Hodge, on behalf of the media, wrote to Head of the Department of Communications (DCOMM) Maurice Lake and Secretary General Hensley Plantijn of the Ministry of General Affairs, referencing the letter Prime Minister Jacobs sent on May 11 granting postponement of the implementation of the media policy until meetings with relevant stakeholders had taken place.
Hodge wrote on September 20: “As stated at the end of the same letter (attached), the agreement was that… ‘should there still be a need, after said dialogue, the media corps will be invited to meet with the COM.’ Clearly if there are multiple points that we still disagree on, the need is still there to meet with the COM. Instead, the policies which are not complete have been published in the National Gazette and were only sent to us three days afterwards. This is completely inappropriate. There was no way for us to know what advice the ministers did and did not take, so no agreement has been reached at all and the documents are incomplete.”
Hodge pointed out that “While we made a lot of progress with the work group which we very much appreciate, we do not accept the policy documents as they are now written and need to meet with the COM for the remaining points. Two points of concern (concerning the ministers/parliamentarians and civil-servant-owned outlets’ employees) were even made worse, going in the complete opposite direction. It should not be presented as if we all came to an agreement.”
Not having been granted the opportunity to meet with the Council of Ministers to discuss the contended issues, Hodge, on behalf of the media, concluded: “ We hereby request that the documents be retracted, and for a meeting to be set up with DCOMM and the COM.”
The media did not receive a reply from government on their request. Instead, Prime Minister Jacobs during Wednesday’s Council of Ministers press briefing made it publicly known that the media will not be invited. “There was a request for further follow-up with the Council of Ministers, but the COM did not see it necessary to have any further follow-up as the technical work group had the mandate with which they would continue.”
The prime minister’s statements contradict her May 11 letter, that was also sent to Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the Ombudsman and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers. “Concerning your request for a meeting with the Council of Ministers (COM) and DCOMM, I wish to inform you that I have installed, for practical purposes, an ad hoc technical workgroup, which will be chaired by the Department Head of DCOMM. The initial meeting with the workgroup will be scheduled to address the concerns of the media,” Jacobs wrote.
“Further, should there be a need for any subsequent meeting(s) we would be happy to facilitate this in an attempt to properly address the media’s concerns, after which the workgroup will advise the COM on the way forward. Should there still be a need, after said dialogue, the media core will be invited to meet with the COM.”