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PAJ writes JFLAG about attack on Observer news team

Gay rights group condemns incident but accuses media of ‘irresponsible reporting’

Saturday, June 01, 2013

THE Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) has expressed serious concerns about Wednesday’s brazen attack on a Jamaica Observer news team that went to investigate reports that police had removed a rowdy band of gay men who were squatting in an unoccupied house at 16 Millsborough Avenue in Barbican, St Andrew.

In a letter to executive director of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays yesterday, the PAJ condemned the attack.

The two men who attacked an Observer news team on Wednesday.


“As we understand it, a team comprising a reporter, photographer and a driver from a local media entity visited the Millsborough community to speak with residents about complaints made to the police about the rowdy behaviour of homosexual men living in the area. This is well in keeping with the role of the professionals to bring to national attention matters of public interest,” the release stated.

As a Jamaica Observer photographer took pictures of the premises on Wednesday, two men — armed with a bag of bottles and other missiles — charged down the driveway and hurled the objects in his direction.

The photographer sprinted towards a marked Observer vehicle in a bid to escape injury. However, the two men, who appeared to be in their early 20s, exited the yard and continued their assault — all the while hurling expletives while heaving the missiles wildly in the direction of the photographer and the vehicle.

The photographer managed to enter the vehicle without being injured and the vehicle sped off.

“There is no indication that the journalists attacked the men or sought to invade their privacy. The fact that the team was viciously pursued and stoned must be seen as a direct attack on the press. We condemn this in the strongest possible way. We have encouraged our members to make an official report to the police,” the PAJ said.

“We ask that you inform the persons you seek to represent to desist from interfering with journalists in the line of duty and educate them on the critical role a free press plays in the democracy,” the PAJ added.

J-FLAG’s executive director, Dane Lewis, late Thursday night condemned the attack on the media workers and distanced itself from such outlandish behaviour.

“… While J-FLAG advocates for the rights of all Jamaicans, and in particular members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, J-FLAG does not condone any form of misconduct, violent or criminal behaviour. We condemn all acts of violence or intimidation either from or directed towards the LGBT community,” the release said.

Lewis, however, criticised the media for what he described as ‘irresponsible reporting’ which fuelled discrimination against gays.

“Irresponsible reporting by some of your members have not only fuelled the discrimination meted out to LGBT Jamaicans rather than bringing to light to the issues resulting in their displacement, but it has also compromised the personal safety of the members of staff, volunteers and clients of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) and J-FLAG because of the reckless publication of a photograph and the address of the formerly shared office compound. This has created a severe trust deficit with segments of the Jamaican media,” he said.

The men occupying the Millsborough Avenue house were forcibly removed from the premises by police from the St Andrew South Police Division on Sunday, the same day an article appeared in the Sunday Observer about the squatting.

But the defiant men have since returned to the house and their inconsiderate ways.

The residents of the upscale community told the Observer that they have been forced to endure lewd, outlandish behaviour by the men, who sometimes bathe naked in the driveway and keep their surroundings filthy. Police alleged the band of uncouth men are the same ones who practise prostitution in the commercial hub of New Kingston at nights.

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