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What about media protocols from other government departments?

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Tue May 14, 2013

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions recently released a document — The National Prosecution Service (NPS) of St Vincent and the Grenadines Media Protocol — which provides guidelines to ensure that the media have access to relevant material at the earliest appropriate opportunity, in effort to maintain an open and accountable investigation and prosecution process.{{more}}

A key objective of the document is to achieve effective mutual co-operation between the media and prosecutors. It also sets out the parameters in which accredited members of the media and the NPS can work to collectively to maintain justice that is fair and responsible to all.

This document sets out, in black and white, the procedure media houses should follow when seeking information from the NPS and provides information which should prevent, or at least reduce, the incidence of members of the media prejudicing trials, publishing incorrect information or disrespecting the dignity and privacy of victims.

The document states who in the NPS will lead contact with the media, and in which circumstances comments from the NPS would be inappropriate, and what information should not be provided to the media.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is to be highly commended for this publication, which when studied, shows a clear understanding by the NPS of the role of the media, and how both entities, though having different roles to fulfil, can still work together in the interest of justice, fairness and transparency.

If the media uses the information in the protocol, they would not, or should not, have unreasonable expectations of the information prosecutors are able to provide at a particular stage in a case.

It is our sincere hope that all members of the NPS, now and in the future, live up to the noble objectives stated in the document. Having such a protocol in writing means, or should mean, that the willingness of the NPS to engage the media would not depend on the disposition of the person who holds the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, now, or in the future.

Accredited members of the media, which, according to the document, are those individuals who are directly employed by media houses or the electronic or print media, such as radio, television and newspapers, are expected to provide information of interest to the general public, regarding policy, procedures or events involving the NPS or other newsworthy information, that does not interfere with the smooth transition of a matter that is being heard in the courts of law.

Along with the considerations given to the media, there are also restrictions, where the NPS can seek postponements of publications if it may appear that victims or witnesses may be at risk, or other prejudices can occur.

The relationship between prosecutors, the police and the media has been adversarial at times, but in many cases, the antagonism comes from ignorance, misinformation, fear or misunderstanding of the respective roles. This document therefore, is a step in the right direction.

Would it be too much to hope for a similar document, from the police, with whom the media interact daily? But not just the police. What about other sectors of the public service, especially those notorious for stonewalling when it comes to the release of information which is of interest to the public.

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