Trinidad & Tobago government’s war on the news media

A timeline of events within the People’s Partnership period…

“I am seeing these events as a sinister pattern and we need to recognise that now.

by Afra Raymond

  • Fazeer Mohammed fired from CNMG.  Fazeer was the popular co-Host of the leading breakfast TV show ‘First Up’.  6th November 2010 – see FIRED!
  • Marcia Henville suspended from 102.1FM in August 2011.  Marcia was the outspoken livewire who led a highly-popular drivetime talk-show examining current affairs.
  • O’Brien Haynes resigns as CEO of the Radio Vision Limited (which includes Power 102.1FM) – 8th December 2011
  • Ian Alleyne is the subject of Police Search on TV6/CCN/Express offices 29th December 2011.  Ian was the controversial host of ‘CrimeWatch’, the country’s most popular TV show, a hard-hitting and interactive outlet for the people’s #1 concern – the relentless rise of violent crime.  ‘CrimeWatch’ was deeply critical of certain elements in the Police Service. – MATT issued a statement on this.
  • Afra Raymond’s column on KNT sent to her by Guardian Ag Editor-in-Chief on 31st December 2011.  My Business Guardian columns had been a critical analysis of a range of issues from ‘Property Matters’ to the ongoing scandal of the ‘CL Financial bailout’. – see ‘Media Integrity’.
  • The Newsday office and reporter Andre Bagoo’s home is the subject of Police search on 9th February 2012.  Andre is the lead investigative reporter for the Newsday, with emphasis on the corruption and public administration. – MATT statement is here.

I am seeing these events as a sinister pattern and we need to recognise that now.

To seed this discussion, I have three threads…

  • The use of Police resources to target journalists is questionable in light of the apparent, unexplained delays in dealing with the CL Financial chiefs, the UDECOTT chiefs and of course, the HCU chiefs.  The operations were apparently executed in exemplary fashion with warrants being obtained and searches done using the element of surprise – no reasonable person could find fault with the execution of those operations.  The burning question for me, given the apparent delays in prosecuting or even searching the ‘White Collar robbers’ – even during the recent SoE – is ‘What are the priorities of our Police Service?  Are our limited Police resources being effectively allocated in the fight against ‘White Collar crime’?
  • The second issue is the agenda of the Media practitioners.  Despite the strong and clear statements from the Media Association of T&T (MATT) on these issues – the embargo of State advertising for the Mirror and I95.5FM, the Police search of TV6/CCN on the Ian Alleyne issue and the Police search of Newsday and Andre Bagoo – there is still no MATT comment on the Power 102.1FM dismissals and the issue of the Guardian’s Acting Editor-in-Chief sending my column on Karen Nunez-Tesheira to her for comment.  We need to be mindful of self-censorship in a world in which most of the media is in private ownership.

Which shifts into my next point…

  • Lastly, there are the issues emerging from the world we live in now.  It is a truly New World, with the commonly-held conviction that ours is a ‘free society’.  Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of association.  It also guarantees the rights of property owners and that takes me straight to the vexatious juxtaposition of those rights.  You see, if we do live in a society with all those rights, the question arises ‘What is wrong with the owner of a media outlet deciding to let-go/fire/suspend indefinitely/re-assign a particular commentator?’  Despite the provisions of T&T’s international anti-corruption and media treaty obligations in favour of whistle-blowers, there are still those who want to know what is wrong with the government deciding how to place its advertisements.

I am closing this off now; to let the discussion flow…

The battle-lines are clear to me… our sentiments on the free nature of our society come into conflict with the impulse for self-protection once we achieve Public Office.  In this round, given the boundless nature of the new technology, we are going to see a sharper, more wily battle to reduce the strength and clarity of our media.  I greet it.

As always, the struggle is against the enemy without and the enemy within…

Afra Raymond

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3 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Caribbean Media, Freedom Of The Press, Human Rights, Politics, Trinidad and Tobago

3 responses to “Trinidad & Tobago government’s war on the news media

  1. http://www.bajanreporter.com/2012/02/clico-barbados-saga-qa-st-gabriel-1st-feb-2012/

    “Tariq Khan is David while CLICO is Goliath and their Legion of Lawyers (no lie, the reason for the ‘resting‘ of the video) is claiming an expression of opinion is a bad thing, so they are threatening Mr Khan and the members of BIPA…”

  2. http://www.bajanreporter.com/2012/02/barbados-investors-policyholders-alliance-bans-bajan-reporter-is-clico-winning/

    ” — I also constantly mention my website and its link at your meetings, the audience is fully aware then my website is an Online newspaper – it seems now that under advisement, the group is now running scared and looking to administer damage control after the fact…”

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