Snapshots from the battle for press freedom
Police seize Andre Bagoo’s computers, phones, flash drives
Nine police officers raided the Newsday offices and journalist Andre Bagoo’s home on Wednesday – seizing at least four computers, two mobile phones and several external storage drives. The police say they are looking for evidence of Bagoo’s sources for his December 20, 2011 story about the row between Integrity chairman Ken Gordon and deputy chairman Gladys Gafoor.
Of course, now that the police have EVERYTHING on Bagoo’s computers they will have a look at EVERYTHING, won’t they? Emails, love letters, shopping lists, contacts list, financial records, photos, sources for every story Bagoo has ever written – little things like that.
The latest attack in the Trinidad police campaign to muzzle a free press comes two months after a similar raid on TV6 last December.
The lesson is that if the Trinidad news media won’t self regulate (as the Guardian did causing journalist Afra Raymond to resign in disgust) then the Trinidad & Tobago police will teach the Trini press to know their place.
We’ve had our own problems here in Barbados with the police strong-arming journalists, seizing their cameras and arresting journalists for photographing accident scenes and corrupt police officers. As a society we must be vigilant and aggressive about preserving the independence and freedom of the press. History has too many examples of what happens when citizens drop their guard.
Photo courtesy of Newsday: Journalist Andre Bagoo, centre in white shirt, surrounded by officers of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) as they search his computer in an attempt to get him to reveal the source of information in a report he wrote on the Integrity Commission.
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Newsday Statement, February 10, 2012
NEWSDAY condemns in the strongest possible language, yesterday’s raid by officers of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) on our Newsroom at 23A Chacon Street, Port- of-Spain and at the private residence in Belmont of this newspaper’s senior investigative parliamentary and political reporter, Andre Bagoo.
The police officers led by Senior Superintendent Solomon Koon Koon, executed a warrant and searched Mr Bagoo’s desk in our newsroom, went through his office computer, all documents on his desk, including parliamentary papers and other information used in the course of his duties.
After two hours they left our Chacon Street newsroom, taking with them two flash drives, one Newsday cellphone issued to Mr Bagoo, his personal cellphone and Newsday’s computer hard drive on which Mr Bagoo has stored confidential information relating to his duties.
From Chacon Street, Koon Koon and his gang left for Mr Bagoo’s residence in Belmont where he lives with his elderly parents. There they used another warrant and took possession of his three personal computers, two flash drives and even questioned the use of his sister’s personal computer. Two Newsday attorneys were present during both raids.
The abuse of our rights by the police follows a letter dated January 20 addressed to Mr Bagoo from Koon Koon requesting that Mr Bagoo reveal the source of the information contained in an article which Mr Bagoo had written entitled “Bitter Row” published on December 20, 2011 by Newsday .
The article revealed disagreement among Integrity Commission members over a request by Commission Chairman, Ken Gordon that the Comission’s deputy chairman, Mrs Gladys Gafoor, and commissioner Seunarine Jokhoo recuse themselves from investigating a matter involving former attorney general John Jeremie. Newsday’s attorneys were in the course of formulating a reply on behalf of Mr Bagoo, in which he refused to reveal his sources, when Koon Koon executed the raid at our newsroom.
It is fundamental to the functioning of a journalist that she or he is able to protect sources of information. Without this, the work of the journalist, particularly the investigative journalist, is fatally impaired.
Freedom of the press is a fundamental right established under Section 4 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. It is essential to this right that a journalist is allowed to keep sources confidential, without which a journalist cannot properly function.
Furthermore, there is Commonwealth authority to suggest that even if a journalist is to be compelled to give sources it must be in certain specific instances.
Particular attention is drawn to the Wigmore criteria, most recently applied in Global Mail v Canada (Attorney General) 2010 SCC 41, the last limb of which makes clear that journalists may be compelled to reveal sources only if: “the public interest served by protecting the identify of the informant” is outweighed by “the public interest in getting at the truth”.
In our view the letter despatched by the ACIB to Mr Bagoo fails to establish any reasonable basis to suspect that a corrupt act or potential violation of the Integrity in Public Life Act has in fact taken place.
The public interest in (1) preserving the ability of journalists to function; (2) learning of potentially harmful developments at the Integrity commission, a powerful watchdog body entrusted by the citizenry to perform crucial functions weigh in favour of the absolute maintenance of confidentiality. This is more so, given the ACIB’s failure to establish an offence in its letter to Newsday.
It is the height of irony that this unwarranted and unprecedented attack on Freedom of the Press arose from a complaint to the police made by the Integrity Commission under its chairman, Mr Ken Gordon who has always promoted himself as a fighter on behalf of Press Freedom and after whom a school of journalism has been named.
It is also instructive that on the same morning the police raided our newsroom and the home of our reporter, Mr Bagoo, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Communications issued a press release on the appointment by President Max Richards of a Tribunal to investigate the Integrity Commission’s deputy chairman, Gladys Gafoor who has now been suspended from membership of the Commission.
Newsday stands by Mr.Bagoo’s right to refuse to reveal his sources under any circumstances.
If this offends the Integrity Commission, under its present Chairman, (or any other chairman) to the extent where police raids are made on our newsroom and on the house of our reporter, so be it.
Executive Chairman and Editor-in-Chief