Tuesday 26 May, 2020

Devant wants compensation for seized phone

Former government minister and UNC activist Devant Maharaj has demanded that he be compensated for damage to his personal mobile phone which was seized by police in the course of its investigations into bomb threats at several schools over a week ago.

Maharaj said when his Samsung Galaxy S7 edge was returned by police, he noticed that the screen had been damaged.

He is now seeking compensation as a result of the damage.

The political activist’s phone was seized by police as he was the first to post information about bomb scares directed at Roman Catholic schools in Port of Spain on social media.

Meanwhile, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago noted that while the former minister uses some aspects of journalism to serve his political agenda, the TTPS’ seizure of Maharaj’s personal mobile phone under section 106(b) of the Summary Offences Act Chapter 11.02, is problematic for journalists and all citizens.

It said the seizure of Maharaj’s phone by the police “appears to be an oddly circuitous method of crime-solving”.

MATT stressed that the use of section 160(b) by the TTPS has the potential to criminalise the actions of all citizens, including journalists, who share information in a public space concerning threats to public safety and exposes all to similar coercive police action.

“Section 106(b) creates the offence of sending a message which is known to be false by telephone or telegram for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to any other person.”

“MATT wishes to reiterate that source protection is fundamental to press freedom. We are troubled that section 160(b) has been activated to force disclosure of sources. On its plain meaning, the section criminalises the actions of the person(s) who sent the bomb threats.”

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