Last week, the media instituted a boycott of the Belize Police Department in response to the Department’s stance on not granting interviews with regards to major crimes. Yesterday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said he hopes that the media and police would iron out the issues. Barrow said that the press should never be excluded. Minister of Home Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, explained why the Ministry decided to change its procedures when dealing with the media.
Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Home Affairs “It is not my understanding that there is a boycott between the police and the media, in fact we decided on a new policy whereby we thought that it was more appropriate for us to give to the media press releases and when the occasion warranted we thought we would have press conferences. So we had the press conference with respect to the last incident when the young boy Usher had gone lost, remember? We called a press conference because we thought that that was appropriate. I have difficulty though with the media having members of the police giving extensive statements to the media on a nightly basis on almost every channel on matters that are live before the court or matters that are under investigation. I think it unnecessarily scares the public local as well as international and many times the investigations are ongoing, much of what is said is speculation so I don’t think it helps the society I think it does more harm than good. So I prefer for us to notify the public as to what is transpiring by means of a press release and if it is warranted we do press conferences. I operate differently and I like to be able to operate the way I can but you will readily agree, all of you will readily agree that whenever I am asked to talk to the media I do it. I never dodge the media, you find me anywhere but I really don’t think and members of the police really are not happy with the institute of the press in terms of the insistence on having individual police giving interviews in extent so on matters that are under investigation.”
Reporter: Maybe your police officers need training on how to answer questions posed by the media.
Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Home Affairs: “I think we could do much more training with the police officers and we are contemplating that actually, we are right now organizing as t how we can cause them to be trained much more comprehensively. We want to work with the University as well as with the police training academy and as well as our friends abroad who have institutions where they train the police to try to get them better educated and trained. We are also contemplating very seriously to see to what extent we can recruit people with advanced certification.”
It was also pointed out during yesterday’s press conference that the Ministry of Works has always held contract signing behind closed doors. The only media entity that has been invited to cover such signings is the Government Press Office. Yesterday the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Works, Errol Gentle, said the media is welcome to cover contract signings.