Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) with responsibility for Communications Symon De Nobriga yesterday categorically denied the Government was seeking to favour TTT at the expense of other media outlets.
He was responding to a report from News at 7, which said he confirmed the Government only invited TTT to a repatriation event on Saturday involving 700 Venezuelans because it wanted to give the State-owned media “a fighting chance”.
Asked by the Express yesterday whether TTT was the only media house invited to the event, De Nobriga said the host of the exercise was the Venezuelan Embassy. “That repatriation exercise was being put on by the Venezuelan Embassy and supported by (the Ministry of) National Security,” he said.
OPM/Communications was not involved in extending the invitation and it did not prohibit any media outlet from attending the event,” he said.
“We were not responsible for issuing any invitation, and the entire event was organised and led by the Venezuelan Embassy and was being supported logistically by the Foreign Affairs and National Security,” he said.
He said he went with the Information Division and TTT “in an attempt to archive the event” so a feature could be done on it. “And I gave instructions to the director of communications to ensure that any media house that was there at the event or that wanted the footage to give it to them. At no time was there any instruction or thought to debar the media,” he said.
He said as he was leaving the event, he encountered media personnel, and Kejan Haynes jocularly referred to the media (outside of TTT) as not being invited and “I answered in a similar vein. The comment was said in jest and there was clearly a misinterpretation. There is absolutely no policy, no directive, no practice of banning the media, certainly not from this Government nor from me as minister responsible for Communications, from any such event.”
De Nobriga said there are occasions when the application of the Covid protocols dictates a limitation on the numbers present. He cited the Prime Minister’s weekly Saturday Covid news conference and Government media conferences and events.
He said in instances where the State-owned media is the only news outlet present, the footage is available to the rest of the media.
The minister also issued an official release saying, “It is unfortunate that Kejan Haynes took seriously a statement made by me light-heartedly and supposed off the record at the repatriation exercise on Saturday...Mr Haynes knows very well there is no policy that provides or affords the State-owned media—TTT or any arm of the Information Division— preferred or exclusive access to any events or activities and I am surprised that Kejan should infer otherwise.
“Given the large numbers and in keeping with the health protocols, it was determined that only TTT and the Information Division would have access; however the director of Government communications had been instructed to ensure that all footage of the event be made available to media houses once they requested the same.”
He said some of the commentary on this matter was based on “a false premise”.