PORT OF SPAIN – The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) says it has received an apology from Police Commissioner Gary Griffith after police officers had sought to “prevent or obstruct” two members of the media in the performance of their duties earlier this month.
In a statement, MATT said that the apology was given during a meeting earlier this week between Griffith and the executive of the media body, following the incident on November 6 when the police officers sought to obstruct two members of the TV6 newsroom from executing their duties.
“The Commissioner apologised to MATT for the behaviour of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) officers in question and has personally committed to meeting with his Divisional Commanders, to remind them of the need to treat media workers with respect and the right of media personnel to cover events occurring in public spaces without hindrance,” MATT said in the statement.
It said Griffith had “also agreed that a free media is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy and does not recall any incident in which media workers obstructed the protective services from doing their jobs”.
“For his part the Commissioner also expressed concern about media reports that may have been carried concerning the TTPS or himself, when no apparent attempt was made to contact him for balance,” the statement noted.
MATT acknowledged that while as a voluntary, professional association it cannot comment on any individual story or media house; however, it was nonetheless an established journalistic practice to seek a response from all parties involved in a matter, except where the story may be of urgency. In those situations, a response is usually sought for subsequent stories.
“In the end, the public interest and the public good are at the heart of both the media’s mission and policing and for that we commend the Commissioner for a candid and conciliatory dialogue,” MATT said.
Earlier MATT had issued a statement condemning “unequivocally” any attempt by the TTPS to prevent or obstruct the media in the performance of its duty.
MATT said that a detailed account of the incident was provided to its executive by one of the journalists involved in the incident, adding, “in that account it appears as though the TTPS employed heavy-handed tactics of intimidation and fear.
“Tactics, which if left uncurbed, will have a chilling effect on the media’s freedom and willingness to report on controversial matters, particularly matters involving the wealthy and politically well-connected,” MATT said. (CMC)