Friday, December 15, 2017

Mediamen tell cops: Threats from soldiers

Police are currently investigating a report by CNC3 journalist Samuel McKnight and cameraman Mano Ragbir that they were threatened by soldiers yesterday afternoon along St Paul Street, East Port of Spain. 

Police sources confirmed officers of the Besson Street Police Station had received a report from the two employees of CNC3 that a group of masked and unmasked soldiers had pointed a firearm at them and threatened their lives. 

Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas was shot dead in the area on Sunday.

Speaking to the Express yesterday, McKnight confirmed he had been verbally threatened by a group of soldiers, however, he emphasised that neither himself nor his cameraman had been physically assaulted in the impasse. 

“The incident took place at about 12.25 p.m. when myself and my cameraman Mano Ragbir were in the St Paul Street area. At the time, there were several groups of uniformed soldiers in the area, with absolutely no policemen in sight. 

“At a particular point, a group of soldiers, which comprised of about 20 masked and unmasked men, all armed with firearms, came up to us and began threatening us, telling us that they want no pictures of them taken and if you did so they will deal with us. In fact, when I then enquired on what authority were these soldiers operating under and what law did they think we were breaking for them to give us that kind of response, one of the masked soldiers ran up to me and pointed the nozzle of his firearm directly at me and said, ‘we don’t want y’all in the area’ and he reiterated that if we took any pictures, they would deal with us,” McKnight recalled. 

He said it was at this moment that he and Ragbir removed themselves from the situation, and relocated a short distance away, where they continued to work. 

He said about an hour later, when they were preparing to leave, they made their way to the Besson Street Police Station and lodged a formal complaint.

Since Monday, residents of St Paul Street, East Port of Spain, have been complaining of “brutality” by officers of the T&T Defence Force, insisting masked soldiers were coming into the community in the night and assaulting residents. 

When the Express visited the area yesterday afternoon, there were no soldiers or police officers patrolling the area. 

However, residents maintained that the soldiers had “no respect for anyone” and were threatening and assaulting people in the area. They referred to the threat made against McKnight.

“People don’t like police here and if them men keep on doing that kinda thing then they not going to like them either and the situation will be worsened. They lost one of their own, we understand that, but Kayode wasn’t a saint at all, and it doesn’t give you an excuse to advantage everybody, especially people over here. We not the ones who did anything to Kayode, we can’t even cross over to that area because if we do, we will get killed too. So what they advantaging us here for?” asked one resident who did not wish to be named.


Speaking to Express yesterday, Public Relations Officer attached to the Regiment, Captain Stephen Affonso, said at the time he was unaware of any report of threats by soldiers  against journalists, however, he did say he would be looking into the issue.