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Media Association urges protection of whistleblowers
Following is the full statement issued today by the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Media Association is disturbed by the news that a newspaper reporter's phone records were recently handed over to an unauthorised person.
The Sunday Guardian of October 14 reported that the phone records of a Guardian reporter were given to officials of the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) after the publication of a September 9 article about the CDA.
Those records were apparently requested by the CDA in an attempt to find out who the reporter’s sources were.
The Constitution guarantees the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life and freedom of the press.
Only the police or certain other law-enforcement agencies may lawfully obtain the phone records of any individual, and then only if they have a warrant issued by a judge. The Interception of Communications Act specifies the conditions which must be met for such a warrant to be granted.
No national security agencies or issues were involved in this incident, which represents not only an invasion of the reporter's privacy but also an attack on the freedom of the press and hence on the democracy of this country.
The media are frequently the only means through which whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors are able to bring wrongdoing to light without risk to themselves. This is because the media have previously been able to guarantee the confidentiality of their sources.
This confidentiality is now under threat, if private individuals are able to bypass the law and unearth the identity of such sources.
If whistleblowers can no longer speak to the media in safety, then corruption, waste, mismanagement and many forms of injustice may go unchecked.
The Media Association urges that this very serious incident should be fully and rapidly investigated by TSTT and the police, and those involved brought to justice if, as it appears, the law has been broken.
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