Photo above: Leader of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP), Portia Simpson Miller.
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar. 17, (CMC) – The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) has called on the Leader of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP), Portia Simpson Miller, to issue a personal appeal to supporters of the party, to allow members of the media to work in peace.
The appeal follows a recent incident, in which a reporter attached to the Nationwide News Network, Abka Fitz Henley, was verbally and physically assaulted by persons purporting to be supporters of the PNP.
The incident occurred as Fitz-Henley attempted to leave the Gordon House – home of the nation’s Parliament on March 10, following the swearing-in ceremony for Members of Parliament.
According to the reporter, he was heading towards his vehicle when a group converged and abused him verbally.
Fitz Henley tried to seek police protection however, he was reportedly hit with what appeared to be a small stone.
In the letter, signed by PAJ President, Dionne Jackson Miller, the association said, it is not suggesting that such behaviour is condoned by the leadership of the PNP.
“Neither are we suggesting that anyone should be prevented from expressing their views about their disapproval of, or disagreement with, the work of any reporter or media house as is their right. However, we are sure you will agree that such expressions cannot descend into assault and attempts to intimidate.”
“We are asking for more from the PNP at this time than a statement condemning the behaviour and distancing the leaders of the party from the actions described. We believe that the closeness of the Parliamentary majority has generated strong feelings in political supporters on both sides, and that while there is an opportunity for extraordinary partnership between our parliamentarians inside Gordon House, there is also the potential for damaging conflict outside,” the statement continued.
The PAJ has asked Simpson Miller to make it clear “that the party will not tolerate such actions by members, and will take suitable action if the perpetrators can be identified and are found to be party members. We are convinced that such a personal appeal from you would carry great weight, and could help to calm simmering tensions. This is important as the on-going threats against Fitz-Henley are inimical to Jamaica’s great tradition of press freedom.
“We await your response.”