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MATT: Media houses and public must be more aware in these times of disinformation

“Journalists have begun work on the impending local government elections and look ahead to three more in the next three years.

“In order to properly serve the public interest in these times, MATT calls on all media houses to assist their journalists by investments in training, equipment, internal policies and guidelines on cyber-harassment and official hostility, and adequate resources to enhance the quality of output from their newsrooms.”

The following is a release by the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) on World Press Freedom Day, which urges media houses and news readers to understand their role in an era of disinformation:

Photo: The media spectrum.

The annual commemoration of World Press Freedom Day focuses attention on the modern environment of disinformation, fake news, cyber manipulation and intimidation. In particular, the theme ‘Media and Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation’ extracts fundamental aspects of democracy—elections and press freedom—and invites journalists to reflect on how we fulfil our responsibilities to the public in the context of these realities.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) this year mapped a global journalism community reeling from fear and intimidation. Of the 180 countries in the survey, only 24 per cent considered their local contexts to be ‘good’ or ‘fairly good’ for the practice of journalism; others are described as exhibiting various levels of hostility to journalists and the practice of journalism.

While Trinidad and Tobago held its 39th place on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, RSF listed several pieces of legislation that are inimical to a free press (Cybercrime Bill, Whistleblower Protection Bill, Data Protection Act and Libel and Defamation Act) and observed that authorities and public servants do not respect the rights of journalists. Our region—the Americas—showed the greatest deterioration in the annual survey.

Journalists continue to fulfil their obligations to the public daily while also seeking ways to pick their way through the disinformation environment. The role of media managers and owners, however, deserves sharp focus.

Journalists have begun work on the impending local government elections and look ahead to three more in the next three years. In order to properly serve the public interest in these times, MATT calls on all media houses to assist their journalists by investments in training, equipment, internal policies and guidelines on cyber-harassment and official hostility, and adequate resources to enhance the quality of output from their newsrooms.

Photo: A reporter on the job.

Journalists are the face of the industry but the critical role of media owners can no longer be ignored.

MATT alerts the public—our readers, listeners and viewers—to their own responsibility in the cause of press freedom. The public cannot be passive news consumers in these times. Accessing multiple news sources to cross-check information and developing media literacy are responsibilities the public also can no longer avoid.

In that regard, the role of institutions such as churches and centres of learning must expand to include education on the intelligent distillation of information.

MATT remains committed to defending freedom of expression and to assisting our members in their pursuit of the highest standards of journalism.

Please note that MATT will commemorate World Press Freedom with a series of online activities until 10 May 2019.

About MATT Executive

MATT Executive
The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago is the authorised representative body for local journalists in all formats.

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  1. Earl Best

    “…adequate resources to enhance the quality of output from their newsrooms.“

    I suppose MATT has no choice but to call for spending designed “to enhance the quality of output from their newsrooms.” But let us not delude ourselves that in our country any sums will be spent on any such enhancement which is unlikely to translate into an enhancement of profit margins.

    The local media ritually attest to the complete lack of interest in and concern for quality of output and I frankly am unable to state categorically that that does NOT originate in the newsrooms.

    Is MATT willing to give us any such assurance?