Police and media find middle ground

By Benjamin Flowers

After weeks of impasse between the Belize Police Department and media houses countrywide, both sides have agreed on a system of information sharing going forwards, bringing the media boycott of police events to an end.

On Tuesday the media met with senior command of the department, including Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie, Deputy Commissioner of Police Noel Leal, Assistant Commissioner of Police Edward Broaster, and Chief Executive officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, George Lovell, to discuss repairing the broken relations between police and the press.

The Department agreed to provide updates on crimes countrywide via police briefings twice a week, to take place on Mondays and Thursdays. Police would also attempt to pass information on weekends, under special circumstances, to provide updates via an established Whatsapp chat group between police and the media.

Whylie also committed to sourcing more staff and training for the members of the department’s Public Relations Unit. As a part of the agreement, the media committed to resume coverage of police initiatives such as the weekly Meet and Greet activities and graduation of the Gang Resistance Training and Education (GREAT) programmme.

The new agreement marks the second time that the media and the police have established a protocol for information sharing for the year 2017.
The media decided to boycott police events following a change in the department’s media police in mid-September. The department had repeatedly denied the media’s request for interviews with relevant commanding officers, in the height of a spike in violent crimes.

In a show of unity, representatives from various media houses gathered together for a morning talk show segment to discuss the situation between media and police.

Minister of Home Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, said that he felt the media is doing a public disservice when it reports on incidents of crime and violence. He maintained that there should be no open flow of communication between police and the media.

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