Wednesday, February 21, 2018

PNM upset by ‘Express’ editorials

GENERAL SECRETARY of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Ashton Ford has written chairman of One Caribbean Media Ltd (OCM) Sir Fred Gollop, alleging an “orchestrated campaign” by the Express newspapers to bring down the party and its leader Dr Keith Rowley before the next general election in 2015.

Ford said according to “all reputable pollsters” the PNM is “destined” to form the next government and the Express newspaper was attempting to “bring the party and its leader into disrepute”.

OCM is the parent company of Caribbean Communications Network (CCN) which publishes the Express newspapers and operates CCN TV6.

Ford’s three-page complaint letter was sent to Sir Fred on July 7 after he said a “series of letters” were “written to the Editor of the Express correcting factually misleading statements in the Express, which all appear designed to bring the party and its leader into disrepute”.

The letter was sent on a PNM letterhead.

It was copied to OCM chief executive officer (CEO) Dawn Thomas, CCN CEO Shida Bolai and Omatie Lyder, editor-in-chief of the Trinidad Express.

“I write as General Secretary of the People’s National Movement, the longest serving political party in Trinidad and Tobago and one which, according to all reputable pollsters, is destined to form the government following the next general election due shortly,” Ford’s letter stated.

A general election is constitutionally due next year.

“I wish to draw to your attention what seems an orchestrated campaign against the PNM party by the publisher and/or editorial writers of the Trinidad Express Newspapers Ltd,” the letter stated

Ford said it was under a previous PNM government that freedom of the press was “entrenched in the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution”.

He said an editorial in the Express dated March 26 tried to distort that fact.

“We take this commitment (freedom of the press) seriously and while given the healthy tension which should always exist between political parties and the media, we consider the ongoing antagonism being displayed by the Express editorials to the PNM to be unwarranted and unsettling,” Ford’s letter stated.

Ford claimed there has been a “consistent pattern” in Express editorials that seem to “belittle” both Rowley and the PNM and which are “based generally on information, that bear little relation to the facts”.

“One error could be forgiven as a mistake, two would constitute a pattern, but three or more represent a concerted attempt by the Express to portray the PNM and its leader as unfit for government,” Ford’s letter stated.

He said this has been a pattern with the Express once general election time is near.

“The PNM noted such patterns prior to the last two general elections, when the newspaper took a similarly hostile approach to a then PNM government,” the letter stated.

“We noted then, that some of the leading protagonists in the CCN group, subsequently found themselves employed by the People’s Partnership administration in lucrative positions or were nominated for Board appointments,” Ford’s letter stated.

Ford said many of those anti-PNM reports were “grinding of political axes” as can been seen by a recent libel matter in the case of the Trinidad Express versus Prof Ken Julien, the former chairman of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

Ford also claimed that an unnamed columnist writing for the Express is a “card carrying member of the United National Congress” and part of the party’s strategy team.

“What is dishonest about this is that he was advertised as an independent columnist writing ‘from a distance’ and although he has since been unmasked as a member of that party’s strategy team, he continues to be afforded the opportunity to attack the PNM,” Ford’s letter stated.

“It should be noted that the PNM has not been afforded a similar opportunity of having a columnist advance the party’s position in the Express newspaper,” the letter stated.

Ford said it was clear the Express has taken a “position hostile to the PNM”.

“It is clear from these incidents outlined above and from the several letters attached in which I have personally complained of the Express editorials bias to no avail, that your newspaper has taken a position hostile to the PNM,” the letter stated.

Ford said the PNM is now calling on the Express newspapers to make its political allegiance known to the country.

PNM party chairman Franklin Khan told the Sunday Express yesterday he endorsed the letter written by Ford. 

Khan made this comment yesterday after the PNM General Council meeting at Balisier House headquarters, Port of Spain.

 Khan said: “I am aware of it and I do endorse it. It came from the general secretary. Sometimes we fear the media is not truthful, balanced and objective. For the first time, we are seeing the media taking sides. They are developing their own objectives. But the role of the media is to cover news objectively and impartially and accurately and let the chips fall where they may be.”

OCM’s Sir Fred could not be immediately contacted yesterday. 

—additional reporting by Michelle Loubon