The International Press Institute (IPI) has written to National Security Minister Stuart Young expressing its concern over “veiled threats and intimidation” of journalists by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
The IPI said in a letter, dated November 29, it had taken note of Griffith’s response following the publication of an article in last week’s Sunday Express in which Griffith was accused of visiting a police station and threatening a detainee in a cell.
The allegation was made by Cocorite resident Cecil Skeete, who claimed that Griffith choked him and placed a gun to his head.
However, Skeete has recanted his story and presented a sworn affidavit denying the incident ever occurred and that he ever made the allegation.
Griffith has since expressed a view that uniformed officers and media personalities are working to discredit him and take him down.
He accused the Express of promoting sensationalism and pursuing an agenda against him.
The IPI letter to Young stated that the Express newspapers published its report based on a complaint filed with the police by the person who reported being threatened by the Commissioner.
Following the publication of the report in the Sunday Express on November 24, the Commissioner of Police resorted to a campaign of harassment against Express journalists, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi Prasad said.
In a social media post, the Commissioner asked the reporter how the family would feel if the reporter is a victim of crime, while in text messages to the editor-in-chief the top cop has made disparaging comments about the reporters and the newspaper, Prasad wrote.
Prasad noted that journalists have expressed fears for their safety and he condemned Griffith’s actions.
“The actions of the Commissioner of Police amount to an attack on press freedom. Such coercive measures by persons in power leads to self-censorship and silencing of journalists.”
Prasad said it is the media’s job to hold public officials to account.
“Senior officials and those holding high public offices are accountable to the people of the country and thus open to scrutiny by the media. It is not just the duty but also the responsibility of the press to bring to light incidents that expose misuse of power and position by government officials. Such investigative reports help governments to deal with issues that would otherwise have not come to its notice.”
“Intimidation and threats against journalists have no place in any democracy, more so in Trinidad and Tobago, which has been a strong democratic nation since its independence in 1962. We therefore urge you to direct the Commissioner of Police to immediately stop threatening and intimidating journalists of the Trinidad Express, a highly reputed and independent newspaper of the country,” Prasad stated.