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DPP launches Media Protocol, Social Media Identification Policy

DPP launches Media Protocol, Social Media Identification Policy

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Friday, May 3, was World Press Freedom Day and in commemoration, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) launched two documents, one of which seeks to foster a closer working relationship between the media and prosecutors.{{more}}

The National Prosecution Service of Saint St Vincent and the Grenadines Media Protocol and the Social Media Identification Policy were officially introduced to members of the media at the CLICO conference room on May 3.

Director of Public Prosecutions Colin Williams told media practitioners that he and members of his staff were happy to host media workers on such a significant day.

World Press Freedom Day was celebrated under the theme:” Safe to speak: Securing freedom of expression in all media.”

The DPP said the day must be known and appreciated by all journalists.

The DPP said it is his conviction that journalists are committed and believe in the freedom of expression.

He noted that the launch serves as another step in the evolution of the National Prosecution Service (NPS).

Williams said in 2010, the Prosecutors Code was launched and the launch of the Media Protocol is an extension and continuation of the process established in the code.

According to the the DPP, a trained media practitioner, there is a need to place emphasis on transparency and openness in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.

“To do this, we have to work with the media. Despite the media having their own interests and objectives like the prosecution, there is a ground of intersection and collaboration.

“To be sure, we are united on the core issues of transparency, accountability, fairness and justice; the Code for Prosecutors in SVG addresses issues relating to the prosecutor and the media in section 19,” the DPP highlighted.

In explaining the media protocol, the DPP said it seeks to establish a consensus on critical issues.

“For example, clear procedures for disclosure of information ensure that there is equal access to information for the competing media houses.”

The DPP added that the media protocol places a responsibility on the prosecution to deliver accurate, timely and reliable information to the media. He said it also seeks to formalise the structure of the relationship between the media and prosecution by paying attention to best practices.

“We are asking the media to buy in, by being willing to report accurately and fairly without prejudicing any future criminal proceedings, as well as to recognise rights and privacy of parties,” he said.

He expressed confidence that the relationship between both parties would be enhanced and, more importantly, with the published document, there is a document in record that can be used to assess, evaluate and measure the performance of the NPS and the quality of the relationship between both.

Also on hand at the interactive session was facilitator Dan Suter, criminal justice advisor to the Eastern Caribbean at the British High Commission in Barbados, who said the media are “the voice piece of the community.”

Suter said St Vincent and the Grenadines is at the front of getting things done, including the first to launch the Code of Prosecutors and introduce the interviewing of suspects on video.

He spoke of the importance of the media being able to disseminate information and to be able to report accurately.

Suter also spoke of his rocky relationship with the media in his early days as a practising lawyer. He recalled being taught not to speak to the media, but noted that stances changed over the years.

In presenting the Social Media Identification Policy, crown counsel Ayanna Baptiste-DaBreo said the purpose of the policy is to outline the proper procedure for police and prosecution when a witness identifies a suspect through social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, among others.

The policy states that the identification evidence is a significant component of many criminal investigations.

“The identification process must be carefully administered to minimise the likelihood of misidentifications. Moreover, constitutional safeguards must be observed in the process…” the document read.

The policy also states that a positive identification can reduce the risk of a conviction being based solely on erroneous eyewitness identification.(KW)

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