THE Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) is calling for a 90-minute press conference to deal with Covid-19 issues.
It stated that these Covid-19 health updates should be only for full-time journalists and those freelancers whose main professional activity is journalism.
These were some of the recommendation made by MATT in a letter to Communications Minister Donna Cox on Wednesday.
In the letter, MATT listed a number of problems encountered by its members since the introduction of the virtual news briefings.
Muting of microphones which:
a.prevents follow-up questions and requests for clarification,
b. allows speakers to leave questions unanswered
c. allows speakers to deflect questions
d. allows speakers to be repetitive and longwinded in an already compressed time-frame
e. allows speakers to take questions directed at others
Non-selection of journalists:
a. Some journalists have complained they waited several days to be selected to pose questions
b. Journalists are uncertain if they will be selected at all and when
- Accreditation criteria.
The criteria for including journalists in the formal news media pool remains unclear. The pool has grown densely populated, adding to the problems identified above.
The recent appearance of recognised, politically partisan activists at the forum and the request by others for accreditation make clarity about accreditation criteria imperative.
The introduction of politically-aligned Facebook and radio commentators brings a higher level of politicisation to a briefing that should remain a space where clear, factual information about the pandemic is proffered, interrogated and transmitted to the public.
MATT offered Cox a number recommendations:
1. While Ministers of Education, Labour and National Security have been in attendance on occasion, information on the policies and actions in other key areas of governance remains largely void. These areas include, inter alias, energy, trade, agriculture and fisheries, works, women and children, public utilities.
Given the wide range of subjects on which the public is calling for information and the numerous segments of the population to serve—including the differently-abled, the elderly and those without access to the internet—MATT recommends that the information sessions increase to include:
a. Specific Covid-19 health updates for full-time journalists and those freelancers whose main professional activity is journalism. This briefing should be 90 minutes long.
b. Separate sessions for bloggers and assorted online non-news media personnel
c. Sessions with Members of Parliament
d. Regular Q&A sessions with the public
2. Sectors of the society with sector-specific queries, e.g. labour, agriculture, energy, finance etc. can be accommodated in separate sessions where representatives of those sectors can address their questions directly to relevant Government representatives.
3. Greater use of news releases for counter-arguments, rebuttals, political fisticuffs etc.