A confrontation yesterday between Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s bodyguard and a television journalist seeking answers about her re-instatement of junior minister, Richard Azan, has raised concerns by both the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) about the incident.
The incident occurred during the prime minister’s visit yesterday to Rose Town in South St Andrew, for the dedication of a water and sewer project, when journalists approached her asking questions about the project, as well as the reinstatement of Azan as minister of state for transport, works and housing.
Simpson Miller insisted that she wanted to talk about the water project, but eventually commented that there was nothing wrong with the reinstatement, as Azan was not guilty of any criminal act.
However, reporters pressed her about the contractor general’s recommendation for disciplinary action to be taken against Azan by his parliamentary colleagues, in accordance with the Westminster model of governance, as well as the criticisms expressed by the Opposition.
“I am not going to have it. I am not concerned about what the Opposition said. They have their own problems right now….” the prime minister remarked.
“But they are saying it is not good governance,” TVJ reporter Vashan Brown asked.
“Don’t push the microphone in my face,” Simpson Miller reacted.
Simpson Miller’s bodyguards then intervened and shoved Brown out of the way, but the reporter resisted.
Simpson Miller later said that she has visited a number of countries abroad and was never treated that way.
“Let me tell you, young man, I have travelled the world, let me tell you, from I have been minister ’til I am prime minister, and the media, internationally, not one has ever been rude to me, and they have always treated me with respect,” she said.
Richard Azan, who resigned in September as a result of public pressure resulting from his involvement in the controversial Spalding Market affair, was reinstated in a swearing-in ceremony at King’s House in Kingston on November 14, despite the contractor general’s criticisms of his behaviour.
Watch the footage below.
In a release last night, Opposition Spokesperson on Information, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, said that she was shocked by the treatment of the journalist by the prime minister and her entourage in Rose Town.
“Not only is the prime minister not giving interviews to the media, but any journalist who seeks to ask questions is at risk of being bullied by her attendants. I hope that the Press Association of Jamaica will act swiftly to protect the rights of journalists doing their work and condemn this incident,” Grange said.
She said that the incident was the latest such in which members of the Government and their functionaries have treated journalists disrespectfully.