The Executive of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago says it has reflected on ongoing developments involving political activist and former government minister, Devant Maharaj and the seizure of his mobile phone by police during their investigation into recent bomb threats to several secondary schools.
MATT says where citizens make a case that their constitutional right to freedom of expression has been breached, it must examine if there is basis to that claim, whether public information actors, including journalists, are vulnerable to similar law enforcement action and whether that action threatens freedom of expression, a core focus of the Association.
In a media release MATT said Mr. Maharaj is a political activist who clones some tools of journalism to serve his political agenda.
MATT intervened to comment on the exposure of journalists and civil society actors resulting from law enforcement involvement when information is shared with the public.
It noted that based on news reports, Mr. Maharaj was interviewed by the TTPS on the basis that he was the first to share information concerning the bomb threat with the public via social media.
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith says the statement issued today by MATT President, Sheila Rampersad, is indeed unfortunate.
Commissioner Griffith says the MATT hierarchy seems more concerned with protecting sources rather than protecting thousands of persons; in this case children, teachers and parents whose safety could have been at risk when someone sent bomb threats to five secondary schools across Trinidad on May 24th.
In a media release the Commissioner of Police said he believes that instead of criticizing the TTPS for doing its investigation, MATT should have been more responsible and work with the Service to discourage actions that may warrant an investigation under the Terrorism Act.
Commissioner Griffith noted that everyone is entitled to their opinion; however, he said that if Ms. Rampersad was serious, instead of making a public pronouncement, she would have sought to have dialogue on the matter with him, as this has been customary by members of the past executive.
Commissioner Griffith noted more importantly, that the job of MATT is to speak on behalf of journalists; however, Sheila Rampersad has taken up the fight on behalf of Devant Maharaj, who is neither a journalist nor a reporter.