The shooting at media house Nationwide’s headquarters in Kingston on Friday afternoon (September 8) should be extremely concerning for all media businesses in Jamaica.
Nationwide, founded and owned by renowned journalist Cliff Hughes, is one of the country’s leading media houses. To have employees at Nationwide scurrying for their lives as a gunman unloads a volley of bullets with the intent to kill, sends a chilling message that free speech and the media in Jamaica are targets.
It is imperative that media leaders come together and roundly condemn this heinous act because the next time, it could be any of us.
In the past, there have ben protests outside media houses-Michael Manley marching on the Gleaner springs to mind, but never a shooting. This is a new low in Jamaica.
The Government issued a statement which read: “The shooting-up of Nationwide Radio is a sad day for journalism in Jamaica. The Government condemn this incident and expresses total support for the staff and shareholders of Nationwide News Network (NNN). We call on the police to do all they can to bring the perpetrators of this brazen and uncalled for act to justice. The Government will never support any attempt to threaten, intimidate or harm any member of the media.”
The PNP’s statement went further but did it have to?
“We express our profound relief that there were no reported physical injuries during this incident and extend our heartfelt sympathies to the staff, operators of Nationwide and affected business. We implore anyone with information regarding the motives behind these incidents to immediately share this crucial information with the police.”
It could have left it there and that would serve as a sincere response but then it became political and using the incident to throw shade at the government, turning everything into an opportunity to score points.
Read into this what you will.
The PNP statement continued: “The alarming high levels of violence and crime in Jamaica are unacceptable and creates an environment of fear and insecurity for our people. The government bears the paramount responsibility for creating a safe and secure country for all Jamaicans. They must equip the JCF with all necessary resources to effectively prevent and control crime and violence.”
Why go there at this time?
This attack on Nationwide could have emanated from incendiary comments made by the PNP’s General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell who bellowed: “Nationwide is an incubator for the Government . Naomi Francis left and turn Press Secretary. Cecil Thoms left and turn Communications Director for the JUTC. Abka Fitz-Henley left and turn Senator. Dennis Brooks left and turn Communications Director for the JCF. Nationwide is an incubator for the Jamaica Labour Party.”
Dr Campbell is known as the PNP’s ‘political pitbull’ but on occasion he needs to be muzzled and kept in check. His statement threatens the safety and well being of all the persons he named and measures will now have to be put in place to ensure their protection especially in light of this attack on Nationwide.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is a good retail politician but now must be on his guard when making public appearances.
The President of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Milton Walker described Dr Campbell’s comments as irresponsible and dangerous. He is right.
Walker added that Dr Campbell should retract them publicly. Given what has occurred, he should do so immediately. I’m sure he doesn’t want blood on his hands.
In June 1996, Veronica Guerin Turkey, an Irish investigative journalist with the Sunday Independent was murdered in a contract-killing.
Fortunately, no such incident has happened in Jamaica to date but the Nationwide attack could herald a new era where journalists are shot in the line of duty.
The team at Our Today stands in solidarity with Cliff Hughes, George Davis and the staff at Nationwide and beseeches them to be vigilant and always be alert to potential dangers.