Prime Minister Andrew Holness wants Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters to counter what he says are falsehoods being spread on social media about the Government in what is shaping up to be an intense battle with the Opposition as both sides step up campaigning ahead of local government elections due by next February.
Holness issued the charge to cheering supporters at the JLP’s St Ann North Eastern constituency conference on Sunday at Marcus Garvey High School in St Ann’s Bay.
“We have tried very hard to ensure that our party is working so that the Government does not get disconnected from the people,” Holness told the conference at which Senator Matthew Samuda was officially endorsed as the party’s candidate to contest the seat in the next general election.
“But you have another role to play, and it is not just to come to the meetings and… hold us to account. The important role that you have to play — everyone in here can play it — is that you can be the minister of information for your house, for your friend group, for your WhatsApp chat group. You can be the minister of information on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, you can be the minister of information for the Jamaica Labour Party. [It is] very important because we have never faced an information environment like the one we face now,” Holness said.
The charge was met with a cacophony of applause, shouts of approval, bell-ringing, and horns.
He said that supporters in the audience who are familiar with how politics was practised in the 1970s through to the early 2000s know that in those days they had to attend meetings or depend on media reports to find out what was happening in the party.
“Nowadays, [though], you have what you call unfiltered and direct media, they call it social media. Everybody is a journalist, everybody can express their own views, nothing is wrong with that, very good. I like it, I use it, but there are also downsides to it because without a very high level of media literacy, meaning people who are able to look at fake information and say, ‘Cho, this is fake,’ a lot of people see the information come to dem phone and are not able to distinguish it and seh, ‘Cho, dis a foolishness, this a just entertainment,’ and sometimes you even become the accelerant, you are the ones who end up sending it all over the place,” Holness said.
“But as our minister of information, our commitment to you is that we will always provide you with the accurate information, with the timely information, so that when you get it, you can look at the foolishness that other people sending to you, or what the Comrades sending to you, the lies that dem sending to you, and dispel it and dismiss it and say, ‘Mash down that lie!’ ” he declared, triggering another round of applause, bell-ringing, and horn-blowing.
“So tonight I am enlisting all of you who are here, listen to what we’re saying, because we have been talking, we have been putting it out there, but it requires you now to take it and carry it one step further, to engage those other people who talking nonsense ’bout nutten nah gwaan and all kinda a foolishness yu hear. Don’t believe them!” Holness said.