Agard calls for greater responsibility in the media

INDEPENDENT Member of Parliament for Christ Church West, Dr. Maria Agard, has taken sections of the media to task for the use of potentially damaging headlines, which do not reflect the content of the story written and for not giving prominence to persons when a not guilty verdict has been returned.

She was making a contribution in the Lower House on the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2017 where she recalled her own experience of landing on the front page with a headline which could have impacted her professional career.

According to Dr. Agard, “Many homes have been broken as a result of the liberty that we give the press to report on these issues. This is a liberty that should in some ways be limited.”

“Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that we muzzle the press in any form or fashion. But of late, I have found the press has taken advantage of their journalistic license to place some of the most salacious headlines on their articles. And the context of the article is fundamentally different from that headline. But the public sees only the headlines and brands the individual … and that individual is branded for life. I am saying that this is wrong.

“I am aware of the damage that can be done to an individual being paraded before the public on a charge for which they are then found not guilty.

“I recall of my own experience in having a media house place the image of myself on its front page with the words ‘Charged’. And ‘charged’ carries its own very specific context. I am a professional in my own right. And I am a professional who provides services for clients – local, regional and international. I was forced to field questions from clients as far as St. Vincent, Canada, Denmark, who actually thought I was being profiled for a criminal matter.

“I had to spend time and effort explaining to my clients that the term ‘charged’ was just the taking advantage of the journalistic license of the press and that I had indeed committed no criminal act. I had to spend money to rebrand my profession and to defend my reputation,” she said.

The parliamentary representative said while she has a platform where she can express her concerns, there are others who don’t have the same opportunity. “…There are many who have had their reputations destroyed because of these titles. That is wrong. And I am not suggesting that we muzzle the press, but I believe certainly that when the press behave irresponsibly, they should be called out for their irresponsible behaviour,” she said. (JH)

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