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TT top cop defends media search

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

TT top cop defends media search

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs has denied that there had been an unnecessary show of force by police officers when they swooped down on the Caribbean Communications Network (CCN) television station late last month in search of evidence linked to an ongoing criminal investigation.
CCN chairman Joseph Esau had written Gibbs expressing “grave concern and deep disappointment” that more than 20 police officers had been used during the execution of the search warrant on December 29.
“Whilst such may be your subjective view, consideration ought to be given to the nature of the search to be conducted, combined with the dimension of the area to be searched, therefore requiring a sufficient (number) of officers,” Gibbs wrote in his response.
The Trinidad Express newspaper, a member of the CCN grouping, which said it had obtained a copy of the letter, quoted Gibbs as saying that 18 police officers were used in the exercise.
“Further, there is confirmation that no body searches were conducted on any member of staff or customers whilst they attempted to enter or exit the building,” Gibbs wrote, adding that reports received ‘clearly reflect that the entire operation was conducted with a tremendous amount of professionalism and at no time did any of the officers involved, display any excessive use of force or abuse of authority”.
Gibbs said that the police force recognise the constitutional rights of the CCN staff and would continue to ensure that such rights are duly exercised.
CCN chief executive officer, Shida Bolai is quoted as saying that “CCN is considering the matter and intends to respond accordingly”.
Earlier this month, the International Press Institute (IPI) condemned the action of the police saying “such actions inevitably have a chilling effect on media freedom and we urge the Government to take steps to make sure that disproportionate shows of force like this don’t become a habit”.
The Vienna-based IPI, which holds its 2012 IPI World Congress here in June, is a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.
The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the police action, adding “The Association believes that sending over two dozen officers to search the station and “lock down” the media house was overkill. (CMC)