Thursday, January 18, 2018

Alarm over death threat

Journalist Mark Bassant forced to flee T&T


threatened: Mark Bassant

Mark Fraser

Three organisations—Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI), International Press Institute (IPI) and Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM)—yesterday expressed alarm and concern over the death threat received by CCN senior investigative journalist, Mark Bassant.

TTTI said it was “gravely concerned” by the report of a death threat received by Bassant. “Such a threat represents an attack on the freedom of the press which must be condemned in the strongest possible term,” it said in a news release.

Transparency said it was further dismayed at the statement ascribed to the Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.

“A death threat cannot be excused or justified under any circumstances and in fact requires official condemnation from the Government and the Opposition. Transparency calls for immediate, concerted action to send a clear message of unqualified protection of the freedom of the press as well as of protection for all individual citizens of T&T,” it said.

The International Press Institute (IPI) also condemned the threats against Bassant which led him having to leave the country for fear for his life.

The IPI urged authorities in Trinidad and Tobago to take immediate steps to ensure Bassant and other journalists can cover important developments in the country without fear of retaliation.

“We condemn the threats made against Mr Bassant, which have highlighted the dangers that journalists face when attempting to reveal information that is in the public interest, even in a country like Trinidad and Tobago, where this form of harassment is unusual,” IPI press freedom manager Barbara Trionfi said in a statement yesterday.

“We urge the authorities to fully investigate these threats and bring the perpetrators to justice, thereby ensuring that press freedom in Trinidad and Tobago is upheld and that courageous journalists, like Mr Bassant, can carry out their work,” IPI stated.

IPI’s regional partner, the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), also shared its alarm concerning the Mark Bassant case.

“The ACM continues to be very concerned about Mark’s safety and well-being,” Wesley Gibbings, ACM’s general secretary, told IPI yesterday. “We hope that state security has accorded this high priority and that the perpetrators are brought to justice within a short space of time. We also call on all sectors of civil society to stand up in defence of press freedom and for the value of the work of journalists throughout the Caribbean.”

ACM noted that the media enjoy a high degree of freedom in Trinidad and Tobago, where IPI has been carrying out a campaign to abolish criminal defamation laws for more than two years. Nevertheless, it said harassment against journalists is not entirely unknown in the country. Last March, according to local sources, a female reporter was accused by a government official of treason for publishing information critical of the government.