Minister slammed for attack on media

PORT OF SPAIN — The International Press Institute has chastised Communication Minister Jamal Mohammed for an e-mail he sent to a local television station head, describing it as “highly inappropriate”.

He sent the e-mail last week Tuesday accusing Dominic Kalipersad, head of News at CCN TV6, and the Express newspaper of being prejudiced against the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership Government.

He also claimed the two media houses, part of the One Caribbean Media, “have embarked on a sad journey to discredit and destroy”. In the letter, Mohammed outlined what he described as “a determined effort to embarrass government officials in the name of investigative journalism” and charged CCN TV 6 and the Express were seeking the fall of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s administration.

‘Highly troubling’

But in a reaction, IPI executive director Alison Bethel McKenzie said on Monday: “For the communications minister to engage in this kind of direct intimidation of the media is highly troubling and, unfortunately, indicative of a recent pattern of abuse by Trinidadian Government officials against the press.

“The media do not exist to do the bidding of governments but rather to serve the citizens of a given country by providing fair and accurate information about matters of public interest.”

She added: “Moreover, in a democratic state, such as T&T, newspapers and broadcasters have the right to express their political opinions and report on the issues they – not those in power – deem as newsworthy.”

The IPI head added: “We hope that in the future Mr Mohammed will turn his attention to repealing Trinidad and Tobago’s criminal defamation laws.” Contacted yesterday, Mohammed said he intended to meet with the Media Association of T&T and the Publishers and Broadcasters Association next week to address concerns over recent media statements.

He said he was prepared to meet with the media bodies this week but some of their members were unavailable. He said he was confident after next Tuesday’s meeting the troubling issues would be resolved in a spirit of compromise.

He insisted the government remained committed to the maintenance of press freedom. (Guardian)

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