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Rival media spar over levels of access to CARICOM event

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Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2022. 9:15 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The war of (mostly) words continued tonight on the rival media networks of Great Belize Television (Channel 5) and Tropical Vision Limited (Channel 7) over claims the former has greater access and background at the two-day CARICOM Intersessional Summit which the latter wants, incorporating the treatment of reporter Cherisse Halsall this morning.

Channel 7 News Director Jules Vasquez, who has been regularly criticizing the current administration’s treatment of the Fourth Estate generally, and his station particularly, on his station, said in a statement incorporated on his newscast and shared with the rest of the press that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement in response to that issued by the Opposition minutes earlier was “an ugly and pointless piece of communication” which “does not cling to the facts as I know them.”

The “farcical claims” made in the release aside, Jules said, the true issue is who had access and who didn’t, specifically Cherisse, whom he defended this way: “Miss Halsall was doing what she is trained to do, which is to go and get the story. The fact is, Channel 7 and every Belizean media house except Channel 5 was systematically excluded from having frontline access to this event. Miss Halsall was not there to cause a scene, or to grab anyone and do an interview; she was there to do a ‘stand-up’ for our morning show. She was not impinging on anyone’s breakfast; she was not encroaching on anyone’s sacred space; she just asked for a few minutes to do a ‘stand-up.’”

And he went further to describe the relationship between Channel 5 and its former CEO, now CEO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amalia Mai as “incestuous,” resulting in “total preeminence” at this event to the exclusion of others and warned of “progressive exclusion of the media from doing its job, creating spaces where the media cannot be.”

This evening Channel 5 hit back, stating in a story broadcast on their newscast, “Great Belize Productions has offered video production, broadcast and streaming services to international agencies, governmental, non-governmental, and private businesses for decades. Our productions have earned several distinctions in the region through the Caribbean Broadcasting Union. This production department is a separate function from the News Department.”

The Channel 5 story went on to state, “But for context, News Five has accredited two persons to cover the CARICOM Inter-Sessional event as press. As per the protocol in such high-level events, our reporters were briefed as to designated areas and events where they would be able to access visiting dignitaries. One of our reporters was also removed this morning from an area of the conference, alongside other reporters at that location.”

In the end, said Vasquez, all his station wants is a chance to do its job properly: “I accept that a meeting is happening and it is high-level; we have had these meetings in Belize before. The media must be allowed to navigate, if not to share, the same space as the delegates, so that we can do our work: to get information out that is not confined to a press release or some sanitized output. We must do our job.”

 

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