No attempt to sanitise by restricting numbers in media gallery


House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George. –

THE suggestion that only five reporters, and no photographers or videographers be allowed to enter the media gallery for the reading of the budget on Monday, is a form of sanitisation.

This is the view of outgoing president of the Media Association of TT (MATT) Dr Sheila Rampersad.

She spoke with Newsday after concerns were raised by media workers about the regulations in place for the reading of the budget and other parliamentary debates.

Staff at the communications department of the Parliament told media workers on Thursday and Friday the decision was made in keeping with covid19 protocols.

They said the proceedings will be broadcast live on the Parliament Channel, Parliament Radio 105.5 FM and ParlView on YouTube. Parliament staff will upload photos to Google Drive for all media.

“I object to Parliament staff substituting for journalists in covering Parliament,” Rampersad said.

“The decision of the presiding officer to allow only writers and not videographers and camera people, lacks logic. And it doesn’t seem to me that it has anything to do with the pandemic and pandemic protocols.”

She added: “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Parliament is attempting to sanitise images and video footage from inside the Parliament, present that to the independent media, and have them transmit that to the public. The media wants their own images, they want their own footage.”

Responding to Rampersad’s claim, a senior Parliament staff, on the condition of anonymity, said that was not true. The staff member said the number of media personnel was determined after the media gallery was measured, and with six-feet distancing, five people were considered ideal exclusive of Parliament staff and state media.

“We cannot take pictures that that media will take. For example, we will not send out a picture of a member asleep and things like that, if that is what you call sanitising.

“What we want to do is capture the work that is taking place in Parliament as best we can for people to be able to know what has transpired. We can’t get involved in bacchanal to a point. It is not trying to sanitise.”

Newsday also spoke with House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George who said the rule was never to allow five reporters, but five media practitioners. Five spaces were reserved for the media, she said adding that the number was derived at after reviewing previous Parliamentary coverage where, on average, five members of the media were present at any given time.

Asked if a reporter will be allowed to use their cellphone to capture videos and images, Annisette-George said: “We have communication division that deals with the media, and they would know, better than me, the granular things that are allowed.

“I really think that it will be a total misrepresentation for what is in place to be termed as an attempt to sanitise what is happening with the budget.

“What was put in place wasn’t put in place just for the budget. It was put in place having regard to the covid19, the variants, the fact that not everybody is vaccinated. And there is a requirement, I think it’s almost an obligation, for each of us to be the brother’s keeper.”

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