Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Donavan McIntosh
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday described the work of the news media as "essential", following persistent allegations that he is anti-press.
Dr Minnis said he does not engage with such rumours, adding he will hold his long-promised quarterly briefings with the press "when the time is right".
These comments came one day after an incident where a police aide to the prime minister swatted away reporters' microphones in Dr Minnis' presence.
Following a Cabinet tour of the new Fusion Superplex entertainment facility, Dr Minnis was asked to respond to criticism that he does not like the press.
"I don't listen to rumours," Dr Minnis said. "They have called me every manner of things in the world. So I don't listen to rumours."
Regarding his long-promised quarterly press briefings, Dr Minnis told reporters he will host them "when the time is right".
On May 30, 2017, during his inaugural press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said Dr Minnis will address the nation bi-annually and meet with the press on a quarterly basis.
This would have signalled a shift in the culture of press engagement with the nation's leader.
However, on May 29, - almost exactly a year later - Mr Newbold could not confirm if or when Dr Minnis will ever hold these quarterly press conferences.
At the time, Mr Newbold clarified that the idea was actually his; noting that the prime minister speaks to the press "all the time".
Mr Newbold added: "That does not mean he will never have a quarterly press briefing or a press conference. But the idea was to make sure he was accessible to all of you.
"And I think for the most part he is. At which point he will decide to have that press conference, he will decide that."
Yesterday, when asked if he still plans to have quarterly briefings, Dr Minnis told reporters: "When the time is right. When the time is right."
The prime minister was also asked if he was going to talk to the press or have a major press conference any time before then.
Dr Minnis said this would be conducted "once the need arise".
"Once the need arise," he said. "Once the need arise, I'd do whatever is necessary. The press represents and send messages to the entire Bahamas.
"It's essential for The Bahamas to know what is going on within The Bahamas. Nassau is not The Bahamas. Others throughout The Bahamas are listening. It's essential for them to know what's happening. And that message is transmitted by the leader of the country, the prime minister, who is me."
Following a presentation at Baha Mar's Convention Centre on Monday, the prime minister refused to answer questions from The Tribune and other media regarding the country's position on a two-year Federal Bureau of Investigation probe that uncovered alleged work permit bribery in The Bahamas as part of a larger US visa fraud scheme.
Reporters were told moments before by a handler that the prime minister would not take questions.
When reporters did ask questions, the handler, a police aid who was positioned to Dr Minnis' left and walking with his entourage, swatted the microphones of two reporters, saying: "Don't put the mic in my face."
To this, Dr Minnis said: "Y'all relax, y'all relax."