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St. Maarten – PFP: Govt.’s Media Policy sets dangerous dictator-like precedent of press censorship

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PHILIPSBURG–Party for Progress (PFP) Members of Parliament (MPs) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson took aim at the recently published Media Accreditation Policy 2022, calling the policy contradictory, inflammatory and improperly thought-out.

The MPs are calling on members of the media to unify under the banner of a press association, and for government to work with journalists to amend the policy in a way that guarantees press freedom.

“A press association is the norm in other Caribbean countries to ensure that policies, such as the one recently issued by our government do not trample on the freedom of the press. How can the press be an effective check on the government if it is the government itself that selects which journalists can question them?” Gumbs said.

“This policy is setting a dangerous precedent and it reeks of Trump-like tantrums – when we don’t like a question, we make sure the question may never be asked. We have to question why this policy is being rolled out now, instead of finalised in 2017 when it was first drafted.”

“The Prime Minister said in the press briefing of Wednesday, April 13, that the goal of the policy is not to stifle the press, but to foster objective and unbiased journalism standards in St. Maarten. This is quite interesting, as this policy is obviously biased in itself. The content blatantly contradicts itself, making it a very subjective and at-times-confusing document,” Peterson commented.

The PFP faction did agree with the fact that stricter security measures should be taken, especially where a majority of the Council of Ministers are meeting together.

“In this situation, one highly motivated, armed and callous person could leave us without a government,” said the PFP MPs.

“However, when the security measures are targeted only at journalists, and not everyone who is entering into that restricted space, such as other government staff, you are openly showing that your concerns are not so much on security as it is harassing the journalists who have come to question you. Will this type of screening now be applied to every meeting that the Council of Ministers will have with external parties, or is this a special consideration for journalists?”

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