The careless and completely unwarranted comments from acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams in response to the death threat to our journalist Mark Bassant underscores his unsuitability for the office he holds.
His suggestion that Mr Bassant may have caused the threat to himself by “irresponsible” reporting is itself so irresponsible as to be downright dangerous. In the radio interview in which his statements were made, the acting CoP revealed himself as a petty, thin-skinned official who could not rise above his differences with the reporter to express an unqualified commitment to his responsibility to protect and serve a journalist whose life is under threat.
In suggesting that the reporter invited trouble upon himself, the acting CoP claimed that “there were a lot of statements and utterances made by Mr Bassant which have been very irresponsible on his part on things which are incorrect…. And some of that, I believe, may have triggered the issue of a threat being made against Mr Mark Bassant”.
It is not clear to what information or what report the acting CoP is referring, but if his information was at odds with Mark Bassant’s reports all he had to do was pick up the phone and call Mr Bassant or his editor. One option that is not allowed to him is to import his grievances against the journalist into the issue of the threat against the reporter’s life.
Over the years, this newspaper has reported many instances of police insensitivity to victims of crime, especially against women who have gone to police stations to report rape and domestic abuse. In response, police administrators have often promised to intensify sensitivity training for officers. However, when such insensitivity comes from the very top, we no longer have to wonder why it exists further down the line.
For us in the media, the acting CoP’s comments sound dangerously like a justification for attacking journalists with whom one disagrees. From time to time, the media have been a victim of this kind of thinking, especially by politicians under pressure who are inclined to incite their fanatics against working journalists. On those occasions the media turn to the police for protection. However, when the opinion comes from the head of the Police Service, we know that the threat level to journalists has jumped to a new high.
This newspaper is profoundly disturbed by Stephen Williams’ comments which make us sceptical about his commitment to ensuring that the death threat against the reporter is pursued as “vigorously” as he claims.
Stephen Williams has added another blemish to an already undistinguished career as acting CoP. We have no choice but to agree with eminent attorney Martin Daly SC that he is not the right man for the job and should go.