YESTERDAY’S parliamentary debate on the Libel and Defamation (Amendment) Bill 2013 provided for a spirited sitting, with Opposition Senator Camille Robinson-Regis seeking to expose the People’s Partnership Government as having a history of battling with the media.
Responding mostly to a contribution by Agriculture Minister Devant Maharaj, she said the Partnership and the United National Congress (UNC) had to be called out for being anti-media, in the face of attempts by Maharaj to paint the People’s National Movement (PNM) in that light.
Robinson-Regis raised incident after incident where former Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed attempted to communicate directly with media personnel after being displeased by reporting from their quarters.
Mohammed had, among other messages, issued a letter to TV6 head of news Dominic Kalipersad, criticising the media house.
She also reminded Maharaj of Mohammed’s proposal that television houses, including privately owned entities, allow the imposition of mandatory and free Government programming into their schedules.
Robinson-Regis then referred to an Internet attack last year on Express senior multimedia investigative journalist Asha Javeed, text from which had been posted to the Facebook page of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
The attack on Javeed included text and a video that pried into Javeed’s personal life and implied she was biased towards the PNM. Some of the text and the video had at one time appeared on a UNC-based website, Robinson-Regis said, although this had been denied by Maharaj earlier, in response to similar allegations by PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi.
Robinson-Regis said Trinidad and Tobago fell 20 points, from position number 50, on the international Press Freedom Index after the Partnership came into power.
Robinson-Regis was however called on by Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith to retract a statement made about Maharaj as she made her contribution.
Robinson-Regis said if the Government had really wanted to do something for press freedom and remove criminal libel, the entire bill would have been revamped.