Last update: 31-Jul-2014 1:54 pm
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Griffith after threat to journalist: We must get rid of gangs
National Security Minister Gary Griffith has said the death threat made against CCN senior investigative journalist Mark Bassant has reinforced his call to rid the country of gangs. He described the threat as very serious and one which must be nipped in the bud. “I am taking this matter very seriously and it has to be dealt with as quickly as possible. The media plays a very important role in our society and we must protect that. These gangs have to be crushed,” Griffith added.
Bassant has since left the country.
In a video clip on the TV6 news on Wednesday night Bassant said on May 7 he got a call from an underworld source to say certain criminal elements wanted to harm him because of stories he wrote recently. “I made a report on it. The next day I was liaising with certain police officers involved in a specific investigation, only to later learn from other trusted sources that these same officers who I had spoken to earlier were leaking information about me and what I knew to the said individuals who organised for my demise,” Bassant claimed.
He said he then informed a high-ranking intelligence source and another trusted senior intelligence officer. The senior officer, Bassant added, later told him his name was on a hit list, together with others. “In fact, he told me they had already been given the order to engage the targets, including me, and that the hit against me was starting at $20,000,” Bassant added. He said the incident had left him angry, especially since journalists, who work for the people, could easily be threatened. Contacted yesterday, TV6’s head of news Dominic Kalipersad said when the threat was reported to Griffith he said the suspect was “ruthless.”
Griffith also assured the police were monitoring the situation closely. Kalipersad described Bassant as a strong and committed journalist who would not want to be put in a position which prevented him from performing his calling in a fair manner. Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams yesterday promised the police were doing all they could to ensure the matter was properly investigated and said Supt Kenrick Edwards, head of the Criminal Intelligence Gang Unit, was leading the probe.
Media groups concerned
The Media Association of T&T (MATT) also has expressed concern and urged the police to move swiftly. In a press release yesterday the association said if the allegations were proven to be true, law enforcement officers must bring the perpetrators to justice, adding that a free and fair press was important to the country’s democracy. “A free and fair press is crucial to the functioning of all institutions and right-thinking members of the society should also condemn any threat or attack on members of the media. “These threats can result in a journalist operating under fear which weakens the role of the fourth estate as a watchdog,” the association added. On its Facebook page the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) said the fact that Bassant had been forced to flee the country underscored the seriousness with which both his media institution and the State’s security forces were treating the matter. “We join with the Media Association of T&T in calling for urgent action to get to the bottom of this situation. “Our international partners are similarly concerned and we all look forward to a thorough and expeditious investigation and the prosecution of anyone found to be behind this threat,” the ACM added.