Cindy Rosan

Police were called to ask talk show host Cindy Rosan to leave Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley’s press conference before it started on the afternoon of Feb. 20.

However, Ms. Rosan refused to leave, and she and other media members waited about an hour for Dr. Wheatley to return before leaving the venue together.

The premier originally was scheduled to host a 2 p.m. press conference focused on his recent attendance at a Caribbean Community meeting in the Bahamas, but he left the room minutes after his arrival.

Less than five minutes later Chief Information Officer Desiree Smith asked Ms. Rosan to accompany her out of the room with her belongings. The two women left, but an upset Ms. Rosan soon returned to her seat. “So she was trying to advise me that the premier doesn’t want me here,” Ms. Rosan said.

She added that she requested Government Information Services’ policy on journalists attending the agency’s press events. But Ms. Smith, she said, informed her that the policy “hasn’t been updated in a while.”

Police arrive

Ms. Rosan remained in the room, and several minutes later a female police officer arrived in the company of three other police officers. The police asked Ms. Rosan to leave the venue, but she again protested and asked that GIS provide her with information on its policy regarding journalists.

The police eventually left the room and stood in the hall, and Ms. Rosan and five other members of the media waited inside. However, Ms. Smith did not return to the room and no updates came from GIS.

Around 3 p.m., the reporters collectively decided to leave the venue, with some noting that they had other pressing engagements. The police officers left the building in the company of the reporters and Ms. Rosan. Shortly thereafter, at around 3:20 p.m., Dr. Wheatley used the government’s Facebook platform to broadcast a statement on the recent Caricom meeting in the Bahamas. Immediately after his statement, the broadcast ended.

‘Handcuff me’

During the Feb. 20 standoff, Ms. Rosan informed other reporters that she had attended a press conference hosted by Governor John Rankin at the same venue on Feb. 14, and at the time no one from GIS asked her to leave.

“I am not going to even resist the police. Just come and handcuff me and let’s go, because unless you can show me a judgment from a court, unless they can show me a policy that says that I can’t be here as media, nobody has revoked my ability to come to the press conferences,” she said.

Asked whether she has an issue with the premier, Ms. Rosan answered in the negative. She asserted that she has a right to question the premier at any press event, noting that he has a choice not to answer her questions.

Several days prior to Feb. 20, she added, she was expected to join the staff of Tola Radio to host a programme. However, she said she was told by the radio station “that the premier doesn’t want to have any questions from me.” She also said she had received a letter from Dr. Wheatley’s lawyer. “It was to stop me from being on any platform that he is in,” she said. Ms. Rosan told the Beacon that she would provide a copy of the letter at a later date.

No comment

Attempts to reach Ms. Smith and Dr. Wheatley for comment were not successful. However, Ms. Smith issued an apology regarding the press briefing later on that afternoon.

“Regrettably, we could not bring the press briefing as expected, and we do apologise for this inconvenience,” she stated. “In place of the press briefing, [the premier] was able to report to the public via a press statement to provide the public with an update on his Caricom meeting attendance.”

Dr. Wheatley also issued a statement that evening, calling on the press to formulate a code of conduct for journalists. “In light of the importance of high journalistic standards to keep the public informed and recent questionable decorum by at least one person at a recent press conference, the Premier’s Office is urgently calling on the press to collaborate on developing a code of conduct that would help to guide the conduct and behaviour of journalists at press conferences and also offer guidance on the handling of misconduct,” he said.

Dr. Wheatley also said his office will be requesting a meeting with the press on the development of a policy on government press conferences. As premier, he added, he fully supports free speech and freedom of the press. “Both should be exercised responsibly and according to high international standards,” he said.