Published On: Thu, Apr 28th, 2022

Press release policy

By Hilbert Haar

The media accreditation policy the Department of Communication announced recently has local journalists up in arms. Good. They demand a meeting with the Council of Ministers to discuss their concerns and in the meantime they will not sign any consent-form.

See related article: Journalists demand postponement of accreditation policy

That last point is interesting, because the government wants to have the policy go into effect per May 1. Journalists who have not signed a consent-form – meaning that they agree with the conditions set forth in the policy – will not get access to the live Council of Ministers press briefing. If they stick to their word the first press briefing after May 1 will become an interesting non-event.

There is no doubt in my mind that the government is entitled to put an accreditation policy in place or to establish house rules. But a government that is so bloody arrogant that it thinks it has the right (or even the skills) to determine what it considers to be quality journalism, well, such a government has totally lost its marbles if you ask me.

The correct reaction to this unholy media policy would be to simply stay away from the press briefings. The downside of doing this is obviously that citizens who rely on local media for information about what their government is up to will be left out in the cold.

Related article: Boycott the press briefing

On the other hand, a media boycott would rob the government of the free media exposure it has been enjoying for decades.

So now I wonder what the possible outcome could be of a meeting between disgruntled journalists and government hacks. Will the government apologize for the ridiculous measures it has in mind? My thought: forget it. Not going to happen.

So then what? Here is an idea. The government apparatus has to communicate with its citizens. That’s a given. To do that, it needs the media, be it print or online outlets, or radio or TV stations.

Up to now, the government’s access to the media has largely been free, not counting the official government’s information page. Ministers and departments bombard local media with press releases without ever thinking that they won’t be published. And it is free!

Isn’t that just ridiculous? If decent tax-paying citizens want to sell their car, or their house, they have to take out an ad and they have to pay for it. But if the government sends out a badly written press release it expects publishers to make something decent out of it and to share the information with the community. For free!

Again, where is the logic? Do gas stations fill up you tank for free? Do supermarkets give away their products? Do girls of easy virtue give satisfaction to their desperate customers without expecting payment? See where this is going?

In the meantime the government apparatus is terrorizing everybody with its press releases, poorly written by overpaid civil servants and tempting many an editor to throw up over them.

Good heavens people, am I the only one thinking that this is absolutely wrong?

I suggest that the media come up with a press release policy. Such a policy cannot turn bad writers into good writers but there is one component that will get everybody’s attention: a price tag. That’s right: determine that your government has to pay for every press release it sends you. Civil servants will have to hand-deliver their electronic press releases together with a check for the required amount because, as we all know, the government is bad when it comes to paying invoices. Otherwise: hasta la vista.


Related articles:
DCOMM media policy triggers widespread criticism
Boycott the press briefing
Govt’s current Media Policy sets dangerous dictator-like precedent of press censorship, says PFP
Journalists demand postponement of accreditation policy
Opinion piece: Press release policy