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PNM seeks legal action against radio station

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The People’s National Movement (PNM) is seeking legal action for what it described as “defamatory statements” made by the state-owned Talk City 91.1 radio station during one of its morning programmes on Thursday. At a press conference yesterday, at Balisier House on Tranquillity Street, Port-of-Spain, the party’s general secretary Ashton Ford claimed PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley was “subjected to outrageous slander” by the station.



He said on the programme reference was made to the party’s 58 anniversary celebrations which took place on January 26 at the San Fernando City Hall auditorium at Harris Promenade, in San Fernando. Ford accused the presenters of saying an invitation was never sent to former PNM leader and prime minister Patrick Manning. 



Charging that it was not the first time that misinformation had been peddled on the station, Ford said, “They are saying on radio to the nation that Dr Rowley was not speaking the truth when he said Mr Manning was invited to the function.” As evidence to the contrary, Ford distributed copies of a letter inviting Manning to the function. He said the letter was collected at Balisier House by the vice-chairman of the San Fernando East constituency, Kennedy Flemming.


“When they get on the radio station to say that Mr Manning did not receive the invitation, that is not true,” Ford added. He said the party had already contacted its attorneys and was moving full speed ahead to deal with the issue. 



“This campaign of hate against Dr Rowley has started since last year September and we have had discussions with our attorneys on this matter and we propose to write the Telecommunications Authority to get the recordings of the programmes from since September last year and to deal with this and to put an end to this nonsense once and for all. “Some of the members of the party have been subjected to brutal and unwarranted attacks from the presenters of this morning programme,” Ford said.


He also questioned why the Government was wasting state resources, as there were more pressing issues to be urgently addressed. Government, Ford added, must say whether it was the policy of Cabinet to use taxpayers’ money to carry out “their political agenda against the PNM” and Rowley in particular. Ford said CNMG’s CEO Ken Ali had his own political agenda. Asked whether Manning did in fact receive the letter, Ford said he personally had a telephone conversation with Manning, who confirmed he did.


He said it was “interesting to note” that Wesley Gibbings, founding president of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, was also employed by the state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG), which owns the radio station. In response Gibbings said he was a freelance journalist and therefore worked for numerous media entities, including private and state-owned media houses. 



“In all my 37 years as a media practitioner I have never heard this,” he responded in an interview yesterday. “I also write for the T&T Guardian and I do training for several stations. “I am part of a panel on 91.1 and that is something I do occasionally. I have also done work spanning different political administrations.” 



CNMG responds
CNMG CEO Ken Ali said Ford’s allegations were “wild and unfounded.” He said statements about Manning’s non-attendance at the PNM’s celebration were made by a guest on a morning talk show. “A timely explanation by the PNM would have been appropriate. Talk City 91.1 FM has been focusing heavily on the forthcoming PNM leadership polls and many listeners have been questioning Dr Rowley’s stewardship of the party.


“I don’t know whether that is what prompted Mr Ford, as a disciple of Dr Rowley, to utter unsubstantiated and reckless allegations against the national broadcaster,” Ali said. He said Ford’s personal attack on him was unfortunate and regrettable. “He may want to reflect on his own brief tenure as a junior journalist and on the role being played in national politics by his family-owned newspaper. “Senseless attacks would not deter CNMG from ventilating the views of as wide a cross-section of the national community as possible.” 


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