House speaker orders reporter’s phone seized and footage deleted

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – House Speaker Halson Moultrie paused the morning session to order a reporter’s phone be seized and any video recording deleted.

Moultrie accused The Nassau Guardian journalist of using the cellphone to record proceedings without permission.

He referred to an incident earlier this year, when a cellphone video of Fontella Chipman, sister of Centreville MP Reece Chipman, demonstrating inside the House of Assembly went viral.

Standing on a point of order, South Andros MP Picewell Forbes, a former radio personality, said he was “taken aback” by the speaker’s comments.

Forbes noted staff from the Office of the Prime Minister regularly records the prime minister’s contribution from the chamber.

However, Moultrie countered he was speaking specifically to recordings done without the permission of the chair.

At the time, Ragged Island and Exumas MP Chester Cooper was making a contribution to debate on a bill that provides a fee exemption for the replacement of government documents lost during Hurricane Dorian.

Eyewitness News Online can confirm an official reviewed the reporter’s phone, and at least one photo was deleted.

Earlier in the session, Moultrie also chastised three ‘dissident’ MPs for conversing amongst themselves during debate in the House this morning.

Moultrie paused proceedings to take Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine, Centreville MP Reece Chipman, and Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, to task over what he said appeared to be a separate meeting.

At the time, Yamacraw MP Elsworth Johnson was on his feet.

The speaker said he did not mind the MPs were not seated at their designated seats, but it was disrespectful to speak amongst themselves during debate.

In response, McAlpine said he respected the chair’s advisory and would be guided by it moving forward; however, he noted similar behavior had occurred in the past without complaint.

Moultrie said: “Whatever I say from the chair is applicable to all members. For example, the official opposition caucus sitting together I expect communication between them.

“But when members leave their position and continue discussion in other parts of the chamber, that is distinguished.

He continued: “I know on occasion sometimes members would repeat themselves when a member is making a presentation for effect, that is also distinguishable from a situation where it appears from the chair that a separate meeting is occurring within the chamber.”

Moultrie added: “Honorable members if you are of the view that such an event is taking place in this chamber, you are welcome to bring it to the attention of the chair.”

The trio were dubbed the ‘Dissident Four’ when they – as FNM MPs – voted against the VAT increase along with Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson last year.

Chipman resigned from the Free National Movement earlier this month, and is now an independent representative.

During the morning session, Moultrie also hit out at the trend for MPs to ignore or speak over him when he attempts to make an intervention.

He made a similar advisory yesterday during the wrap-up of debate on amendments to the disaster bill.

The speaker said he will no longer tolerate the “practice of pretending to ignore the chair, or not to hear the chair”.

“When the chair intervenes and you hear the voice of the chair you don’t pretend not to hear or ignore it,” Moultrie added.