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DH | Ottley refuses to answer questions from Herald reporter, who gets verbal warning

PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley during the live Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday declined to respond to questions posed by a Daily Herald reporter on matters surrounding the inspection of meat from garbage-fed pigs being sold for public consumption, indicating that he will only respond to the newspaper’s Chief Editor or another reporter, whom he identified by name.

Thirty-year-veteran reporter Jacqueline Hooftman, who has extensive experience in the media working in Belgium, the Netherlands and Curaçao, was also given a verbal warning by press briefing moderator Roylyka Roache, after she attempted to react to the minister. Hooftman has since made it clear that she will not be deterred from doing her job, from investigating matters and questioning ministers.

During the first round of questions, Hooftman asked about the inspection of meat from garbage-fed pigs, which is sold at restaurants and supermarkets. She enquired about the outcome of a working group in terms of checking where the meat is sold and about inspection of the meat in the absence of a meat inspector, given that similar unhygienic pig facilities are operated in other districts.

Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, replacing one of his colleagues who was not present, said he did not have an update on the pig situation, indicating that he had only seen it once in the media and that he would have to get more information.

When it came time for Ottley to respond, moderator Roylyka Roache indicated that the VSA Minister would obtain the information for the reporter. Hooftman then said that she had never received any answers in writing to any email over the last year and asked the minister whether he could unblock her on WhatsApp.
Ottley responded by indicating that he would not answer questions from the reporter.

“That’s what I was just going to tell you. [The Daily Herald Chief Editor] Mr. Gordon [Snow] knows, since we’re going to do this here – Mr. Gordon knows that I am specifically, I don’t answer questions from you. So, I would prefer if it goes through Ms. Judith [Fitzpatrick], that’s the only person that I will answer for, from The Herald, since we’re going that route. But I won’t unblock you from WhatsApp. So, therefore, I would gladly answer the questions to Mr. Gordon with The Herald. Thank you,” Ottley said.

When Hooftman attempted to speak, Roache issued a verbal warning. “Ms. Hooftman, please note, this is not the forum to do so. We will move on to the second round of questions. Also, please take this as your first verbal warning,” Roache told Hooftman.

As it relates to the unhygienic animal slaughtering practices, Ottley later provided the newspaper with copies of email showing that requests were sent for the matter to be investigated on April 12 and it was subsequently indicated that the matter does not fall under the jurisdiction of the VSA Inspectorate, but rather under the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries LVV under the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT).

Irion said later in the briefing that WhatsApp was not a place to respond to every “so-called media person” on a regular basis.

“In regard to the comment that was made a while ago with regard to never replying to emails and so forth for a whole year, that is not true because you have gotten responses, maybe by other ministers, within the last year. On top of that, WhatsApp is not a place that we have to respond to everyone, every media person, every so-called media person on a regular basis.

“We have hundreds of people, we even have people from overseas, Curaçao, Aruba, different media individuals that message, email and so forth. On top of that we get messages from people that don’t even say who they are.

“You just get a random number messaging and saying that they are from a media house and so forth and I think it’s kind of unfair to say that the minister isn’t replying and so forth and also given time consideration. If it’s an email we will respond directly here and you have gotten responses from ministers in the past,” Irion said.

Hooftman explained in an invited comment that she has done a number of investigations on several deaths of patients at Mental Health Foundation (MHF), and that she had been attempting to obtain answers from Ottley as the responsible minister in relation to the findings of her investigations into the deaths and other stories that she had been pursuing.

She explained that while Ottley was originally responding to her questions last year, including by WhatsApp, and at one point also a member of his cabinet, she realised that her queries were no longer going through.
She said she had approached the minister at a press event in March and informed him that her questions on the issues she was investigating appeared to not be reaching him and asked whether she was blocked, and she said Ottley had indicated to her that she might be. She asked at that time to be unblocked so that she could continue to seek responses to issues she was investigating and she indicated that the minister had said a discussion first had to take place.

It should be noted that the press is usually urged to forward their questions in writing to the respective ministers, but Hooftman said in many cases she does not receive any responses – not from Ottley and not from one other minister.

Ottley’s refusal to respond to the question in the live press forum follows a number of press briefing incidents over the past weeks, including the removal of 721 News operator Gromyko Wilson from the press briefing on the grounds that he is a civil servant, and a radio operator being told that the station’s designated political correspondent will not be allowed entry to the press briefings.

When it came time for Ottley to respond, moderator Rolayka Roache indicated that the VSA Minister would obtain the information for the reporter. Hooftman then said that she had never received any answers in writing to any email over the last year and asked the minister whether he could unblock her on WhatsApp.
Ottley responded by indicating that he would not answer questions from the reporter.

“That’s what I was just going to tell you. [The Daily Herald Chief Editor] Mr. Gordon [Snow] knows, since we’re going to do this here – Mr. Gordon knows that I am specifically, I don’t answer questions from you. So, I would prefer if it goes through Ms. Judith [Fitzpatrick], that’s the only person that I will answer for, from The Herald, since we’re going that route. But I won’t unblock you from WhatsApp. So, therefore, I would gladly answer the questions to Mr. Gordon with The Herald. Thank you,” Ottley said.

When Hooftman attempted to speak, Roache issued a verbal warning. “Ms. Hooftman, please note, this is not the forum to do so. We will move on to the second round of questions. Also, please take this as your first verbal warning,” Roache told Hooftman.

As it relates to the unhygienic animal slaughtering practices, Ottley later provided the newspaper with copies of email showing that requests were sent for the matter to be investigated on April 12 and it was subsequently indicated that the matter does not fall under the jurisdiction of the VSA Inspectorate, but rather under the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries LVV under the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT).

Irion said later in the briefing that WhatsApp was not a place to respond to every “so-called media person” on a regular basis.

“In regard to the comment that was made a while ago with regard to never replying to emails and so forth for a whole year, that is not true because you have gotten responses, maybe by other ministers, within the last year. On top of that, WhatsApp is not a place that we have to respond to everyone, every media person, every so-called media person on a regular basis.

“We have hundreds of people, we even have people from overseas, Curaçao, Aruba, different media individuals that message, email and so forth. On top of that we get messages from people that don’t even say who they are.

“You just get a random number messaging and saying that they are from a media house and so forth and I think it’s kind of unfair to say that the minister isn’t replying and so forth and also given time consideration. If it’s an email we will respond directly here and you have gotten responses from ministers in the past,” Irion said.

Hooftman explained in an invited comment that she has done a number of investigations on several deaths of patients at Mental Health Foundation (MHF), and that she had been attempting to obtain answers from Ottley as the responsible minister in relation to the findings of her investigations into the deaths and other stories that she had been pursuing.

She explained that while Ottley was originally responding to her questions last year, including by WhatsApp, and at one point also a member of his cabinet, she realised that her queries were no longer going through.
She said she had approached the minister at a press event in March and informed him that her questions on the issues she was investigating appeared to not be reaching him and asked whether she was blocked, and she said Ottley had indicated to her that she might be. She asked at that time to be unblocked so that she could continue to seek responses to issues she was investigating and she indicated that the minister had said a discussion first had to take place.

It should be noted that the press is usually urged to forward their questions in writing to the respective ministers, but Hooftman said in many cases she does not receive any responses – not from Ottley and not from one other minister.

Ottley’s refusal to respond to the question in the live press forum follows a number of press briefing incidents over the past weeks, including the removal of 721 News operator Gromyko Wilson from the press briefing on the grounds that he is a civil servant, and a radio operator being told that the station’s designated political correspondent will not be allowed entry to the press briefings.

Bron: Daily Herald

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1 reactie

  1. Ottley and Roache: be advised. The dig towards finding that one pesky little embarrassing item you don’t want the outside to know……..it just started.
    Anytime, anywhere….l

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