Whylie and Aragon need to “get the sense” that the media and police must function in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 16, 2017–For the first time in its evolving history, Belize’s various media outlets have come together with one voice to say to the Belize Police Department, enough is enough. We are boycotting you, until you fix the problem that your new centralized media police have created for us.
The boycott word went out to the Police Department by the weekend, when they were informed that there would be no media coverage of the police’s GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program that was having a graduation ceremony for 16 schools which had participated in its program.
The police’s Public Relations Officer, Raphael Martinez, fired off a letter on Monday to editors and managers, essentially appealing to them for their intervention to prevent their reporters from boycotting the event, which was held at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts.
That approach did not work; it only hardened the resolve of the media to continue its boycott of all Police Department events.
Initially, when the police’s top brass decided that none of their commanders were to give interviews to the media and they would return to the policy where information provided to the media would only flow from the police press officer, that policy was to be effective for six weeks, and was supposed to be reviewed on February 28. That review did not happen and the media found that its information flow was choked off under the Police Department’s new media policy.
Today, Thursday, March 16, Channel 7 News director Jules Vasquez wrote a letter to Commissioner of Police Whylie and CEO Lovell. Vasquez’s letter was written on behalf of the other media houses and it laments the failure of the new media model that the police have adopted.
Vasquez’s letter opens saying, “We met on January 11, 2017, at Old Belize to discuss the state of police/media relations. At that time, the media agreed to try a new public relations model for a six-week period. Nine weeks have elapsed. I write today on behalf of my fellow media practitioners from Channel 7, Channel 5, LOVE FM and LOVE TV, KREM Radio and KREM TV, The Amandala, The Reporter, and The Belize Times to inform you that the media has rejected this public relations model. We do so, because it does not work — and it does a disservice to the public we both serve.”
As things now stand, Amandala understands that the ball is now in the Police Commissioner’s court. There was a meeting in January between selected reporters and the Police Press Office. Following that meeting, the file was sent to Commissioner Allen Whylie for his decision.
Amandala attempted to speak to Commissioner Whylie, but he did not answer our phone calls. We tried calling CEO George Lovell, but when we reached him earlier this evening; he told us that he could not speak because he was in a meeting. Finally we tried to get a word from Police Minister Elodio Aragon, Jr., but we were unsuccessful.
Amandala was told that the boycott would continue until those who run the Police Department respect the role of the media to gather and disseminate information to the public in a timely manner. The media is not seeking a divorce from its relationship with the Police Department, but wants to function in an atmosphere of mutual respect, which is not the case right now.