Thursday 2 April, 2020

BARJAM to establish fund to assist members of media

The Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers (BARJAM) has announced a number of plans as part of their 2020 agenda, one of which includes a benevolent fund to assist media members who require financial assistance during times of illness. 

The information was revealed in the association’s New Year message by President Emmanuel Joseph.

Below is the full text of the New Year's message:

My fellow Barbadians and media colleagues in particular, it is with a sense of optimism that I address you at this moment in time as we usher in a new year with its likely challenges and opportunities. Needless to say, 2019 was a tough year not only for the country, but for the media fraternity especially, having lost some of our most beloved veteran media professionals in Harold Hoyte, Vere Walcott, Veoma Ali and Antonio Miller.

I can assure you that their memories will not be buried in the dust to which they are gone. The Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers (BARJAM) will find fitting ways to immortalize their life’s work.

As the year 2020 unfolds before us, BARJAM will intensify its efforts to raise the level of professionalism and capacity of our members to carry out their duties. Our focus will be in a number of key areas such as training and re-training, promoting a sense of integrity, rewarding practitioners for exceptional work done and putting a programme in place which would cater to the financial, material, social and emotional needs of members who fall on hard times.

The Board of BARJAM has agreed for example, to establish a Benevolent Fund which would assist members experiencing medical crises and are unable to pay their bills. We will also be examining initiatives which would allow us to provide counselling and emotional support for bereaved media professionals whose have lost loved ones. I will go further and announce that only recently a bereavement expert reached out to me with a view to assisting BARJAM in also conducting workshops for members who cover tragic events, so as to help us better manage the emotional fallout and provide best practices in approaching sorrowing families while still being able to get the story.

I think this is great opportunity especially for those media workers who tend to “specialise” in covering deaths. Even though we are taught not to allow our emotions to get in the way of our reporting, we are still human beings with families of our own.

On another note, I would like to see that Freedom of Information Bill go before Parliament in 2020. I am aware that the Government has been pushing ahead with its suite of integrity legislation and the Freedom of Information Bill would be a fitting climax in the coming year. In fact, I am urging the Government to even take the bold step – as now exists in the United States- to enshrine in our Constitution the citizens’ right to know where access to “public interest “information is no longer a mere discretion of those public officers who hold it close to their chests like it were their personal bed room business.

A Free Press can only help to strengthen our democracy in which we take so much pride. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that with freedom comes responsibility and that there is a line which has to be drawn when it comes to access to information. That is a no-brainer. But right now, there is too much bureaucracy and legal or self-imposed blockages standing in the way of media practitioners getting information from Government agencies and their technocrats.

The frustrating thing about it is that more often than not, it is basic information that tax payers need to know. The situation even makes you angry to think that many of these public officers – and private sector officials as well – either can’t take your call now and do not respond to your messages; bluntly refuse to talk; give you the run-around or in some cases tell you “there is no story, so why are you calling me.” But when they have information they believe makes them look good, the same media practitioners who they treated with scorn suddenly become the greatest asset. This must stop! We all have critical roles to play in this democracy and we would do well if we worked together and cooperate as far as practicable.

We expect great things to happen in 2020 for media professionals as we hold high our motto which says that “BARJAM is your eyes, your ears, your voice”. As Barbadians and friends of Barbados gather here in 2020, we in the media fraternity will continue to gather our plans and unfold them for your benefit. I conclude by reminding you of our mission and vision statement.

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