Questions raised after police take recordings from Radio Jaagriti
Update April 18, 2019, 4:07 pm:
Police officers visited Radio Jaagriti on Thursday to seize a recording which they said contained offensive material under the Sedition Act.
The incident comes after a warning letter was issued by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) over statements made by General Secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnarine Maharaj, during a television recording earlier this month.
The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) said in a statement Thursday that a warrant was procured and displayed for the seizure of the offensive recording.
"Officers of the Special Investigations Unit have executed a search warrant at Radio Jaagriti for evidence in relation to an alleged audio-visual clip, which aired on Tuesday 16th April, 2019."
"Officers, led by Inspector Wayne Stanley, proceeded to the radio station, located at Pasea Main Road, Tunapuna, on Thursday 18th April, 2019, with the objective of verifying the authenticity of the clip and to obtain a copy of the recording, for further investigations."
"On arrival at the station, the officers met and spoke with two officials and a search warrant for evidence under Section 13 of the Sedition Act, Chapter 11:04, was shown to them."
"A master copy of an audio-visual recording was subsequently handed over to investigators," said the TTPS, adding that the exercise was 'incident free'.
Staff left 'traumatised'
However, this report conflicts with reports from sources within the station, who said no warrants were displayed.
A source who preferred to remain unidentified said officers appeared at the station and demanded that staff hand over the tapes without the CEO being present.
The source said the officers were asked for a warrant however they did not produce one. When they were asked to wait for senior management to arrive, they became impatient and claimed they were being delayed on purpose.
They said when senior management arrived, they were again asked for the warrant but none was produced.
However, even without seeing a warrant, the station agreed to hand over the recordings for April 15-16.
The source said staff were left traumatised by the incident.
Opposition member and former minister Devant Maharaj, in a statement issued Thursday, questioned whether there was due process.
“The raid of Radio / TV Jaagriti along with the threatening TATT letter today is nothing but a naked abuse of power and should be rejected by all citizens. Further, the Minister of Public Administration and National Security owes an explanation to the population for the unprecedented and possibly unlawful action.”
“While the statements of Sat Maharaj is offensive the alacrity of TATT appears to have discarded due process which Mr. Maharaj is entitled too. I have previously made complaints to the TATT and NEVER have they responded in a similar manner in writing the offending station. In fact, TATT has in the past agreed that a violation transpired but requested that I take private action.”
“TATT having written to Sat did not wait for the ink to dry on the paper before police acted. This is nothing short of political harassment. While I vehemently disagree with the content of his statement, a citizen who believes in the rule of law I will defend his right to say it,” Maharaj said.
Attorneys for the station said they received a request earlier this week to release the recording of the interview in question, and that the letter granted a seven-day window in which to submit the recording.
However, they said the next day they received a letter from TATT saying they were in breach of guidelines.
Sat Maharaj said the incident was an attempt at intimidation.
In an interview earlier this month, Maharaj said Tobagonians were lazy and raced goats and crabs, and said Tobagonian men would chase 'white meat' and commit rape.
In a statement issued April 17, TATT said it looked at an extract of the broadcast and found the comments to be "divisive" and "inciteful".
TATT reminded of Clause D9 of the Concession granted to Central Broadcasting Services Limited on March 13, 2018 which states:
"...the Concessionaire shall not:
(a) transmit any programme, information or other material which degrades or portrays in a negative manner or discriminates against or encourages discrimination against any person or group by reason of race, origin, class, religion or sex.
(c) broadcast programme, information or other material which endangers the security of Trinidad and Tobago, violates any law, is of a defamatory nature, is subversive to peace or public nature or is otherwise contrary to the laws of Trinidad and Tobago."
TATT said Maharaj's statements are in clear violation of these concessions.