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Dec 30, 1998

U.D.P. says give the media police information

The United Democratic Party is asking the Ministry of National Security to reverse its decision to issue police reports to the media on a twice weekly basis. The U.D.P., led by former Minister of National Security Dean Barrow, characterizes the move as an attempt to manipulate and control what is fed to the public. The U.D.P. is asking that the daily reports resume and that the media demand the enforcement of its — and the public’s — right to know. Last week media houses were told by Belmopan police that they would no longer be getting a crime report on a daily basis but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Further, the reports, or sitreps as they are called in police jargon, had to be approved by Minister Jorge Espat and Police Commissioner Ornel Brooks before they would be released. This week a rundown of recent crime was issued on Tuesday as promised. However, it was largely a list of incidents which occurred at least a week ago and which had already been reported by sections of the press following their independent investigations. Permanent Secretary Allan Usher told News Five on Monday that the new system was designed to “provide better service to the community”. He said the additional time will allow police to show when criminals have been quickly apprehended and not just crimes that had been committed. In the past, sitreps had been issued from the police commissioner’s office every day — including weekends — and follow-ups were included when arrests had been made. The Media Association is expected to meet next week to discuss the impact the new policy is having on the free flow of information to radio, television and print news agencies and to issue a statement of its own to the Ministry.

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