The Public Media Alliance has written to the Trinidad & Tobago High Commission in London calling on the country’s government to respect media freedom in the wake of the police search of the Trinidad Express newspaper. 

The Public Media Alliance condemns the police search of the Trinidad Express, which took place at its headquarters on the 11 March.

Media freedom underpins informed society and the intimidation of journalists in this way can have a profound impact on the public’s right to know and sustaining a healthy democracy. The full letter can be found in full below.

Read more: PMA condemns police search of the Trinidad Express

18 March 2020

Your Excellency,

I am writing to express the serious concerns of the Public Media Alliance [PMA] regarding the search, on Wednesday 11th March, by the Trinidad and Tobago Police, of the offices of the Trinidad Express, specifically the office of the Editor in Chief, Ms. Omatie Lyder.

PMA, formerly the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, is a member of the Advisory Network of the Media Freedom Coalition, a coalition of 36 States committed to media freedom.

I note that last year, Stuart Young, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Communications made the following statement to mark World Press Freedom Day:

Today, on World Press Freedom Day, (May 3rd, 2019) in my capacity as Minister of Communications, and on my Government’s behalf, I wish to recognize and celebrate the importance of a free press in a democratic state, such as Trinidad and Tobago. I join the rest of the global community in affirming the principles that freedom of the press and freedom of information are fundamental human rights which are also enshrined in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago and are critical to sustaining a healthy democracy”.

PMA absolutely endorses the principles of media freedom including the right of journalists to protect their sources. Our understanding is that on 11th March, the police were searching for information relating to an investigative story by journalist Denyse Renne. The story was about Acting Police Commissioner, Mr Irwin Hackshaw.

We understand that both the Minister of National Security-also Stuart Young- and the Police Commissioner Gary Griffith have denied any prior knowledge of the raid. It is therefore of further concern that this raid seems to have been overseen by Acting Police Commissioner, Mr Hackshaw, himself.

Our concerns are based on the role that media freedom plays in terms of underpinning democratic society.

PMA backs the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) who responded with the announcement that, “Journalists in receipt of information about wrongdoing cannot be intimidated by the police to reveal their sources.”

I will end on noting the final words of Mr Young in his speech last May: “I want to give the assurance that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will always stand on the side of a free press, as we all seek to build a stronger and healthier nation”.

As a global organisation, PMA looks forward to your response to my letter highlighting our concerns.

It is imperative that the support of any government regarding media freedom is translated from words into actions.

With Kind Regards,

Sally-Ann Wilson. CEO Public Media Alliance

Header Image: View from Woodbrook One over Port of Spain, Trinidad.Credit: Star Lion/Creative Cloud