Deputy Speaker of the House Don Saunders said on Saturday he does not believe House Speaker Halson Moultrie has a bias against the media, but he said he would have handled things differently had he been in the chair and saw a reporter using her cell phone to capture proceedings.
“I would’ve maybe just sent my clerk over and said, ‘Listen, ask the reporter to stop recording’,” Saunders said.
“‘Remind her of the rules that I said.’ Instead of, you know, making it a big, basically making it a big issue in the House.”
The reporter in question was taking photographs of Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper while he was contributing to debate on a bill to waive the fees for replacement documents for hurricane victims.
In a previous ruling he gave on cell phone usage in June, Moultrie did not specifically stipulate that media needed to first seek his permission before using cell phones to take photos.
On Wednesday, he drew criticisms from multiple circles when he ordered the House clerk to seize the reporter’s phone and delete what she had captured.
Former Speaker of the House Dr. Kendal Major also addressed the issue when he spoke at the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) Marathon youth meeting.
Major, who served as speaker of the House during the last administration, said, “And if I were in that position, would I have made the same decision? I trust not but obviously because he is there he was faced with a different scenario.”
He continued, “So, I was careful in my capacity as a private citizen not to criticize his decision. Although one can argue that in some respects, it was over the top…and we can criticize it.”
Major said he also made mistakes during his tenure as House speaker.
He said he received several phone calls from journalists last week, asking his thoughts on the matter.
“…At the end of the day, I told them, in essence, it is easy to sit where I sit today from my perch and criticize another sitting member who made a judicial decision whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent,” Major said.
PLP MPs have criticized the speaker over this move.
Last week, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis described it as “rather capricious”.