Thursday, April 26, 2018

Jamaica Moves Up To 6th in Press Freedom

Press Association of Jamaica Pleased with Press Freedom Ranking but Still Vigilant

Statement from PAJ President Dionne Jackson-Miller

April 26, 2018: The Press Association of Jamaica is pleased with Jamaica's continued good showing on the annual World Press Freedom Index, published by press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.

Jamaica moved up two places from eighth last year, to sixth this year out of 180 countries.

In its assessment, Reporters Without Borders stated that: "Jamaica ranks among the countries that most respect freedom of information. The very occasional physical attacks on journalists must be offset against this, but no serious act of violence or threat to media freedom has been reported since February 2009, a month that saw two cases of abuse of authority by the Kingston police. The law decriminalizing defamation passed by the House of Representatives in 2013 was a step in the right direction."

PAJ President, Dionne Jackson Miller, says "While we are happy about Jamaica's improved ranking, we cannot relax. We must be vigilant as the erosion of press freedom can be insidious."

"We continue to be concerned about the potential impact of the Data Protection Act on journalism in Jamaica. The Act is now being examined by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament. We have been calling for the practice of journalism to be completely exempted from the provisions of the Act," says Jackson Miller.

"Even as we celebrate our improved ranking, we acknowledge the threats our colleagues face elsewhere, including physical attacks, and verbal abuse from political leaders," says Jackson Miller.

The PAJ President notes that "We stand in solidarity with our colleagues around the world, many of whom work in oppressive and dangerous conditions, like the Philippines where the President has warned reporters that they are not exempted from assassination."

In its overall assessment of the state of press freedom as outlined in the 2018 index, Reporters Without Borders stated that there is "growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies."

The report stated that "The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as: enemies of the people." 

In Mexico, which ranked 147th, 11 journalists were killed last year, with RSF calling the country "the world's second deadliest country for journalists in 2017."

Reporters without Borders has described Turkey as the "world's biggest prison for professional journalists."

The PAJ says it will continue to add its voice to calls from advocates around the world for the protection of journalists.

#JournalismIsNotACrime

#EndImpunity

Dionne Jackson Miller

Photo from Jamaica Observer

Friday, April 20, 2018

Whirlwind of Positivity for Special Needs

Excerpt from Observer column published 16 April 2018

By Jean Lowrie-Chin

The arrival of Special Olympics International CEO Mary Davis, hosted by the Digicel Foundation, ushered in a whirlwind of positivity for the special needs community last week.  

We headed out to Lyssons, St Thomas on Tuesday morning for the opening of the 10th special needs centre in Jamaica, sponsored by the Foundation.  The enthusiasm of Mrs. Jaqueline Wilmot Hendricks, Site Coordinator for Lyssons Special Needs Centre was contagious, as we toured the facilities where there are not only instructions in the basic subjects, but projects that can assist in promoting sustainability.  The students proudly showed off large games boards they had painted – Checkers, Ludo and Snakes & Ladders, that will go on sale soon.

Later that day, we enjoyed the company of our Special Olympians, their staff led by Lorna Bell and Board headed by Alrick 'Alli' McNab, and newly appointed State Minister of Sports, Culture, Entertainment and Gender Alando Terrelonge, coincidentally brother of Emcee and Special Olympics Board Director Paula Pinnock.  We watched the Unified Team of Special Olympians and students from Pembroke Hall Primary engage in a game of bocce – this sees the engagement of students with their intellectually challenged sisters and brothers, promoting respect and inclusion.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister Olivia Grange received us at Jamaica House, and we are looking forward to a Labour Day collaboration with Minister Grange, "Ramp it Up" as we build more ramps in schools and public buildings.

Our 'Conversations on Special Needs' at the Jamaica Conference Centre last Wednesday, included presentations by Pastor Phillip Johnson, the father of an autistic son, and Radcliffe Richards, the father of a daughter with Down's Syndrome.  They moved us with their passion for inclusion, and their conviction that their children are God-given gifts, who have kindled in them and their families deep love and devotion. 

Senator Floyd Morris, Director, UWI Centre for Disability Studies called on the Government to set an effective Date for the Disabilities Act, passed in 2014, to come into force. Indeed, we learned that countries that do not promote inclusion are losing millions as an increasing number of visitors and investors shop around for special-needs-friendly destinations.  

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Yes, Journalism IS Special - PAJ President Jackson-Miller

As a proud member of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) I endorse this important message from our President. 

Op-Ed on Data Protection Act
from PAJ President

Dionne Jackson-Miller

One of the perhaps predictable responses to calls by the Press Association of Jamaica & the Media Association of Jamaica to exempt journalism entirely from the Data Protection Act, has been to ask  "Who do they think they are?" and  "Do they think they're special?"

The very easy answer to that question is yes, we are! Not as individuals, but because journalism occupies a special, privileged position in democratic countries, because of the tremendous significance of freedom of the press.

Because parliamentarians refused to include a clause protecting the right to a free press in Jamaica's Charter of Rights, the press rely on the right to freedom of expression. But still, the importance of the press as a sub-set claiming protection of that right is undeniable.

UNESCO said on World Press Freedom Day 2014:

"…a free, pluralistic and independent news media, on all platforms, is important for facilitating good governance and transparency. Within the much-broadened media landscape, news media still remain central conduits for ongoing public assessments of the activities of government and other institutions that have developmental impact…Only when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize a society's policies and actions can good governance take hold."

This is a principle that has been recognised by courts, advocacy groups, and inter-governmental organisations for decades.

Jamaica has consistently ranked extremely high on the press freedom index developed every year by the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, and successive governments have made few overt moves to curtail that freedom. This does not mean we can relax our vigilance, as freedom of expression is easily, and insidiously, undermined.

Having grown up in a country in which we can fire off letters to the editor on every conceivable topic and call up local radio programmes (constrained only by the restrictions of defamation law), not to mention speak our minds at community meetings to political representatives and government officials, it becomes easy to take our freedoms for granted.

In the criticism of Jamaican journalism for not being better than it is, in the rush to dismiss local news output as inadequate and superficial, it's easy to forget how critical it is to have a free and open media. It's easy to forget the good work done, in condemning the poor.

It's easy to forget that Jamaican journalists have been responsible for many important stories about waste and corruption in government, stories about the plight of suffering citizens overlooked and ignored by the systems of government that exist to help them, stories about ineffective and unresponsive government agencies, and that Jamaican media have given a voice to a diversity of views on society and government policy, many sharply critical of government, and have held politicians to account.

This is not an attempt, today, to defend the quality of Jamaican journalism. We can always do better and must always aim to do better.

But what we are doing is critical in a democratic society. So no, the work of journalists cannot be equated to the work of other business operators, for the purposes of the concerns we have raised about the Data Protection Act. These include the certain chilling effect of the criminal penalties, fines and imprisonment, which could be imposed on journalists and media houses, the requirements to register and provide particulars of reasons for the collection and use of information, the lack of protection for journalistic "sources" and the dangers to the financial viability of our media houses.

It's not the same because journalism occupies a special place in democratic societies and discussions about protecting the profession must begin with this realisation.

In October 2017, the Financial Times published an article titled "UK Warns Data Rules Used to Stifle Journalism." The article said, among other things that:

-          " the tactic of invoking data protection rules to squash coverage is also being used against investigative journalism"

-          "editorial legal director at The Times and Sunday Times, said: "We are getting told when we go to subjects for comment that we can't process their personal data, which raises the concern that post-publication we might be mired in a costly action"

-          "some subjects named in the Sunday Times's 2015 investigation into blood doping in athletics — which involved the records of 12,359 blood tests taken from more than 5,000 athletes — tried to use data protection laws to prevent their personal information being released"

"even where unsuccessful, the time and costs involved for media companies in defending such cases could stifle free speech, lawyers warned"

Impacts on the much smaller media houses in Jamaica could be disastrous.

Now would be a good time to tek sleep and mark death.

Dionne Jackson Miller

President, Press Association of Jamaica


--
"A Free Press, Oxygen of Democracy"

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Food for the Poor Easter Prison releases

Sandra Ramsay & and Correctional Services Officials brief freed inmates at last Christmas FFP Prison Release


Excerpt from column 

by Jean Lowrie-Chin 

published in Jamaica Observer 2 April 2018

 

This is the 20th year of the Food for the Poor prison ministry programme which has seen the release of hundreds of non-violent inmates at Easter and Christmas, by paying their fines. Among the 113 released in the region for Easter, were two women from Fort Augusta and three from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre and the Black River Police Station. Each was given words of encouragement, a hot meal, personal care items and money for transportation home.

 

"I prayed for God to provide something new for me and my family, something different for us to start over… a new life," one of the women said through tears. "I believe, with all my heart that Food for The Poor coming here today to pay my fine, is a direct answer from God. Even last night, I prayed and I said, 'God, free me please' and today, I am a free woman."


Additionally, more than 7,000 former inmates also have benefited from Food for the Poor Jamaica's (FFPJ) "Fresh Start Programme" that helps with profitable jobs, such as welding, carpentry and farming. Two young brothers in St. Catherine who previously had their fines paid for by Food for The Poor started a successful car-washing business - FFPJ staff and local police officers are some of their most loyal customers.



A Time for Renewal - Jamaica Cabinet Reshuffle

His Excellency The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, Governor-General (3rd left) and The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister (3rd right) share lens with the newly appointed Members of Cabinet following the swearing-in ceremony at King's House, March 27, 2018. From left are Mr. Zavia Mayne – State Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Security; Mr. Alando Terrelonge - State Minister, Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; Mrs. Fayval Williams - Minister without Portfolio, Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and Dr. Nigel Clarke - Minister of Finance and the Public Service. 
- King's House Photo

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin 

published 2-April-2018

Last week's Cabinet reshuffle was a signal from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that leadership must respond to the demands of the times. The announcement was followed by the usual kudos and criticism, the right of free speech in our precious democracy. Most of the protests came from the movement of Minister Audley Shaw from Finance to Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.  However, we wholeheartedly agree with him that this is in no way a demotion. Indeed, it is a powerhouse ministry that can help us achieve that 'five-in-four' growth, by tackling our stunting bureaucracy, supporting our hardworking farmers with game-changing technology and providing enticing opportunities to stanch our ominous brain-drain.

 

The promotion of Minister Fayval Williams to full Cabinet status is encouraging for those of us who have been advocating for more women in public sector leadership. She will be the fifth woman in our Cabinet, joining Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Minister Shahine Robinson, Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith and Attorney General Marlene Malahoo-Forte.

 

There is a balance of youth and age in the Cabinet, as we welcome the brilliant new Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke and State Ministers Alando Terrelonge and Xavier Mayne, while noting that those astute seniors Ministers Mike Henry and Karl Samuda have been assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister. The hard-working Minister Robert Montague steps across to the substantial Transport and Mining Ministry while the durable Minister Horace Chang takes up the challenging Ministry of National Security. 

 

We should make it our duty to support our Ministers and Members of Parliament (JLP and PNP) in their efforts for the development and protection of our country. Our Opposition is expected to contribute and criticize, but we should never forget our higher purpose of unity for the greater good.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Gout de France & Deaf Empowerment

Photos:

Mrs Valerie Facey - Volunteering for the Jamaica Association for the Deaf for over 60 years.


With Claudia Gordon - Jamaica-born first deaf Black Attorney-at-Law in the US and great mentor for Jamaica's deaf youngsters.


On the first day of Spring, March 21, French Chefs the world over celebrate 'Gout de France' (Taste of France) and Jamaica continues to participate.  This year, the gracious couple, Ambassador of France Jean-Michel Despax and Madame Line Despax hosted the event at their residence, with all proceeds going to the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD).  The memorable feast was created by Michelin 3-star Chef Marcel Ravin of Monaco, supported by Jamaica's own Oji Jaja. Kudos to organizers, lead by the longest serving volunteer for the JAD, Mrs. Valerie Facey.

 

I also caught up last week with Jamaica-born Claudia Gordon, who is the first Black deaf woman lawyer in the US. She was head of the Obama White House division for disabilities, and is now a Legal Counsel with Sprint.  This passionate mentor of the deaf is encouraged by their increased integration in the workplace, citing Deaf Can! Coffee as a major success. She looks forward to a greater understanding by Jamaicans that the deaf have their own language and hopes that more emphasis will be placed on empowerment.

 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chief Justice Brian Sykes, St George's College Class of 1977

By Dr Lloyd Tenn 

Chief Justice Brian Sykes was sworn in February 16, 2018 after a brief period of confusion within the Government.

Justice Sykes is highly respected within the legal circles. He was a Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, acted as a Puisne Judge and was called to the Supreme Court Bench in 2006.


At St. George's College, he was known to be a hard worker, producing quality work consistently. He always had insightful views in discussions in and outside of the class room.


Sr. M. Theresa Jackson RSM - fiercely, dedicated Jamaican

The Ministerial History of

Sr. M. Theresa Jackson, RSM  
R.I.P. March 9, 2018


by Sister Susan Frazer - Administrator, Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica


Sister Theresa (affectionally known as T.J.) has had a colorful and varied religious life with 90% of her ministry spent working for her Church, which she dearly loved.

Before beginning her long ministerial duties in Church work however, T.J. also spent time in the following areas:

  • Child care at Alpha Boys' School and St John Bosco for a total of 11 years

  • For a short time at Holy Trinity as Assistant Sec/Bursar with Sr. Philomena who was then the Principal

  • As Financial Manager of the Sisters of Mercy and as Administrator in the Alpha Business Office for a total of 7 years

  • Terry was also actively involved in issues of justice through her membership in the Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) to promote peaceful and fair elections in Jamaica


Throughout T.J.'s life, she remained involved and very committed to the life and work of our Sisters in Central and South America through the Latin American Caribbean Conference and support our sisters in CASA (Central and South America).


In 1974 Sr. M. Bernadette Little, the Mercy Superior at the time, volunteered T.J. for what became known as the Rural Lay Leadership Training Team as the Sisters of Mercy's contribution to the Church.  Terry was thrilled.

Terry's involvement in the Lay Leadership Programme caused her to live in a variety of locations throughout Jamaica.   Port Antonio, Linstead, May Pen, Morant Bay and Kingston. In 1980, not finding a Pastor who was willing to work with the Team, Archbishop Samuel Carter, SJ., decided to disband the Rural Team.  

In 1984, after working in a variety of other situations still within the Church community, Terry, along with several other religious from other communities,
Sr. Maureen Clare who is here being one of them, designed a programme on the model of the Laity Training of the Rural Team at St. Michael's Seminary and began with the first group of about 80 participants from Urban parishes.

In 1993 Archbishop Carter approached Sr. Theresa Lowe Ching, the then Superior, to ask if T.J. could be released to take charge of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre which he was just about to open on the grounds at St. Michael's Seminary.   So, with Sr. Theresa's approval in September of 1993 she assumed the role of Director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre and Coordinator of the Laity Training Programme run by St. Michael's Seminary.

During the years there were many changes of Archbishops.  Following Archbishop Carter came Archbishop Edgerton Clarke, then Archbishop Lawrence Burke, SJ., Archbishop Donald Reece followed by Archbishop Charles DuFour.  


After many wonderful and fruitful years in Laity training and Pastoral work, it was to Archbishop Charles DuFour that she handed in her resignation in July 2015 after 22 years as Director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre and 32 years with the LLTP at St. Michael's and later, in 1993 as Coordinator of CAREP.  

I say all of this because I believe that T.J.'s work with the Church was often a silent and invisible work.  She was not ordinarily front and centre, and I know she never aspired to be, but I think many did not understand or appreciate the work she was called to do.

To say that T.J. was passionate about being Jamaican is an understatement.  She was "fiercely" Jamaican and let this be known to all who would listen.


Terry stood firm in her beliefs and took seriously the maxim of our Foundress Catherine McAuley, "to have great confidence in what you do and what you think best.  State your opinion and always act with courage."

May we too follow her lead and always act with courage and confidence.

Monday, March 12, 2018

CCRP CENTRAL JAMAICA CHAPTER LAUNCHED

Scenes from last Friday's Launch 

Column for MON 12 March 2018 - Excerpt 

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Seniors have strength in numbers

Once again, the scenes repeated themselves last Monday – elderly folks being assisted to polling stations for by-elections. The world over, seniors take their role as electors seriously and here in Jamaica, they are an important part of every campaigner's canvas. It is high time that seniors realise their power and ensure that policy-makers give respect and reward to those who have built and continue to make great sacrifices for this country.

Thanks to the work of Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, the National Policy for Senior Citizens was tabled in the House of Parliament on March 12, 1997 by then Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sport, Portia Simpson-Miller. (https://www.ifa-fiv.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/061_Jamaica-National-Policy-for-Senior-Citizens.pdf)

This comprehensive policy led to the expansion of the National Council for Senior Citizens and the introduction of the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme.  Corporate Jamaica has also stepped up, offering discounts and special facilities for senior citizens.  While it is understandable that former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has described the fast-growing population of elderly as a 'ticking time bomb' for our economy, Jamaica's seniors are also realizing that there is strength in their numbers. 

At last Friday's launch of the Central Jamaica Chapter of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, dynamic seniors, several of them returning residents, discussed the issues that require focus. They were encouraged by award-winning family physician, Dr Owen James, a Board Member of the organisation, to come together and be of one voice for the matters that affect their well-being and security.

First, there was the matter of Property Taxes, as they noted that several Caribbean neighbours offer tax relief to seniors who continue occupying their homes, acknowledging the substantial amounts paid over decades.  What a contrast to our local situation where a 99-year-old man in St. Elizabeth was hauled before the courts last month for failing to pay Property Taxes.

On the matter of security, the Central Jamaica citizens noted the valiant efforts of the Police, and several said they were members of Neighbourhood Watch groups. The returning residents are also members of Percival LaTouche's association, which has provided timely guidance to those seniors who are considered easy prey to unscrupulous persons. They expressed faith in Jamaica – Gloria and Keith Wellington noted, "We are happy to be back home, and we have no intention of living anywhere else."

The residents continue to enjoy touring, mentioning some great experiences in St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon – among them the St. John Bosco weekend entertainment spot where the school's catering trainees serve excellent food; YS Falls, Little Ochie, Jack Sprat, Black River Safari, and Milk River Spa.

Comfortable accommodation for the elderly was a hot topic. Mrs Jean Anderson is calling for developers to create complexes in Central Jamaica similar to the Women's Club in Kingston. Plans are to invite members of the Jamaica Real Estate Developers Association to their next meeting.  Dr Guyan Arscott has mentioned the potential of the 90-plus-acre property around the Milk River Spa. This spa boasts one of the richest mineral springs in the world – such developments would not only be welcomed by residents, but also provide a big boost for health tourism.

The executive members of the CCRP Central Jamaica Chapter are: Mrs Sadie Johnson, pharmacist; Mrs Sonja Allen, retired nurse; Mrs Patricia 'Pesh' Campbell, retired teacher and Mr Leighton Ritch, retired executive of Alcan. We are sensing a new and exciting phase of engagement and advocacy of and for Jamaica's seniors.