MEDIA RELEASE - JULY 7, 2015
STATEMENT ON THE COUNCIL'S DELIBERATION
The Council for Responsible Political Behaviour met on Monday July 6, 2015 and considered several complaints and concerns as submitted by members of the society. Of all the complaints considered, only two were deemed to have breached the Code of Ethical Political Conduct. The other complaints, though legitimate as they may be, were found not to be in breach of the Code, or outside the remit of the Council.
With respect to the two complaints that were in breach of the Code, one did not identify the person in breach, but rather referred to "a prominent member" of the party. In this case, since the person engaged in this breach is not an ordinary supporter, the Council has asked the complainant for information so as to ensure that the specific person can be so cited and censured. Once such information is provided, the Council will issue a statement on that breach.
The second case which the Council found to have breached the Code, relates to statements made by Ms Juilet Davy on her Facebook page. Ms Davy's commentary was reviewed within the context of Section 2: Prohibited Conduct of the Code. Herein several clauses within the Code, needs to be underscored, amongst which are:
Clause 2.3. Not make false or defamatory allegations in print or speech in connection with an election in respect of a Party, its Candidates, representatives or members.
Clause 2.4. Not use language or act in a way that may -
a) Provoke violence; or
b) Intimidate Candidates, members of Parties, representatives or supporters of Parties or Candidates, or voters; or
c) Invite, encourage or foster hatred, resentment or any form of violence.
Clause 2.5. Not seek to assassinate the character of or make defamatory
comments about any individual, family, professional group or section of the community.
In censuring Ms Davy, the Council acknowledges that her statements were not made on a political platform, nonetheless she has been and continues to be a vocal member of the PNM. To this end, the Council would like to highlight several other Clauses to, not only the leadership of her party but to the leadership of all political parties, amongst which are:
Clause 1.2 Maintain the highest moral principles and ethical standards with respect to their conduct during the campaign, the elections and the post-election period."
Clause 1.4. Promote and enforce respect, tolerance, harmony and peace amongst their supporters and the general public during the campaign, the elections and in the post-election period by being positive role models.
Clause 1.6. Refrain from practices that promote divisiveness in the Society and commit to the removal of any structures (behavioural,cultural, social or organizational) which reinforce divisiveness.
Clause 1.11. Make this code known to supporters and uphold its adherence.
Clause 4.1. Chairpersons of all political campaign events appeal to supporters and the general public for peaceful behaviour.
In its deliberations the Council also revisited the role of the Media. Section 3 of the Code speaks to The Media. That Section however speaks mainly to the protection of the Media as well as limitations by political parties in the use/abuse of the media. The Media is thus expected to operate in a professional manner and in that regard should be a conduit to promoting peace, harmony, tolerance and respect for all members of the society. Be that as it may, concerns have been raised as to sensationalizing the news and moreso the use/abuse of headlines.
Thus for instance, an Express report of a speech made by the Chairman of the Council carried the headline "Jack Must Behave." However, at no time did the Chairman of the Council make such a pronouncement and this is evident by the content within the article, To this end, the Council calls on media practitioners to maintain a level of professionalism, all in the quest to dampen any attempts by political parties, leaders, candidates and party supporters in the fostering of hatred, resentment and divisiveness within the society.
Submitted on behalf of the Council
Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath