Saturday 5 December, 2020

Express raid an 'attack on free speech', says MATT

The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) has condemned a recent police search at the Trinidad Express news office, saying the act was an attack on press freedom and free speech.

In a statement, the organisation said the search, which was done by officers on Wednesday in response to an article on an investigation into alleged fraudulent activity by a senior officer, was a 'shocking act of intimidation'.

"Yesterday’s raid of the Trinidad Express newsroom by police seeking to identify the source(s) of a Sunday Express investigative story “Senior cop in $2M cheque probe” (March 8, 2020) is an undisguised, frontal attack on the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago that guarantees free speech and press freedom."

"The actions of the police against the Caribbean Communications Network (CCN) media house occurred while the TTPS was being led by Acting Commissioner of Police Irwin Hackshaw, the same senior official named in the Sunday Express investigative story. We note that contents of the story have hitherto not been disputed," MATT said. 

The group also noted that neither the Police Commissioner nor the National Security Minister claimed to be aware of the act. 

"In immediate response to this shocking act of intimidation against journalists and whistleblowers, both the substantive Police Commissioner and Minister of National Security have denied responsibility. MATT urges these two high office holders to investigate and report fulsomely and swiftly to the public on yesterday’s police action."

"This is the most recent attack on the press by officers of the TTPS and MATT unequivocally resists these attempts to frustrate the flow of information to the public."

"The public has a right to know when and how office holders are working against the public’s interest."

The group is calling for adequate protections for whistleblowers. 

"The Media Association calls for adequate legal protection of whistleblowers and for public interest exemption clauses in several items of legislation, including the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Act and the Interception of Communications Act."

"Evidently, soft clauses in legislation are being cynically activated as cover to launch egregious attacks on the public’s right to know."

"MATT stands in solidarity with our colleagues at the Trinidad Express Newspapers as we monitor developments."

On Sunday, the Trinidad Express reported that Acting Police Commissioner Irwin Hackshaw was flagged by three banks for depositing close to $2 million into more than 15 personal accounts.

The matter is being investigated. 

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