Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019. 4:13 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes:Archaically, the press corps is treated little differently on visiting the National Assembly than the ordinary Belizeans who occasionally fill the galleries. The press is in the house at the pleasure of the Speaker – not in its own right – and we can be ejected at the speaker’s say-so, usually under Standing Orders for private discussion of bills and motions.
For our television colleagues, it is an especially tight fit, as the press gallery has increasingly less accommodation for all the members of the press that attend meetings of the House of Representatives especially.
Ahead of the next such meeting on Friday, August 16, Clerk of the National Assembly Eddie Webster called the press to a briefing in Belmopan, though it appears few got the memo, as only Channel 7 News and PLUS TV. (Breaking Belize News was not aware of any invitation.)
Webster proposes, with a budget of 65 thousand dollars, to establish and maintain a main feed of House meetings from which the press can draw. Currently, The National Channel and WAVE Radio/TV provides coverage online and on television, as do most major television stations (it is not clear what the status is of the radio contract between LOVE FM and KREM Radio/TV).
Webster told Channel 7 that the expanded coverage has created space issues, but a further discussion is scheduled for next week. Measures to ensure that there is no state censorship of that main media feed were brought up at the meeting – and will be further developed.
Channel 7 News Director Jules Vasquez, who says he has covered the National Assembly for 25 years uninterrupted, calls the move a “quantum leap forward,” akin to countries such as the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago which have established their own parliamentary channels (C-SPAN does much the same in the United States).
The National Assembly is developing a protocol for security and coverage, starting with the granting of official media identification.
We will seek further comment from Webster and/or Speaker Laura Longsworth on the sidelines of Friday’s meeting.
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