The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) has hit back at Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith for criticising the media for interviewing suspected gang leaders and members during the police’s recent Red Alert operations.
In a release issued last evening, MATT noted that the duty of all journalists is to report all sides of a story, not just selected viewpoints.
“While the Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, is free to express his opinion on how journalists conduct their duties, MATT would like to remind the CoP that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy,” MATT said.
“Mr Griffith has repeatedly used his right to freedom of speech to sarcastically refer to media houses and journalists he does not agree with. To the Commissioner, we say it is your right to question any report in the print and broadcast media. However, MATT suggests the Commissioner be more temperate in his choice of words so as not to create the impression he is not in support of a free press.”
MATT reminded Griffith that he is not at war with the media, nor is the media at war with him or the police service.
“We support the good work of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and will continue to report on their fight against crime. Likewise, the journalists of Trinidad and Tobago will continue to highlight the views of persons who may disagree with the manner in which police conduct their duties.”
MATT also reminded reporters and journalists of the need to be fair and balanced in all reporting.
MATT’s comment came after Griffith, during CNC3’s The Morning Brew, described the media’s interviewing of suspected gang leaders and members as a glorification of the gang mentality.
“I am certain the population will also be interested in the stories of those who may have been directly impacted by numerous lives lost to senseless gang-related violence —or on the other side, those who actually felt a degree of safety, particularly in these ‘hotspot’ areas, for the days whilst a few persons of interest were pulled in for questioning; let’s hear their stories as well,” Griffith said.
“As much as I appreciate that every sector has their jobs to do, at some point we must understand that giving prominence to persons of interest only adds to the perception and ‘glorification’ of the ‘gang-mentality’. At some point, the global public interest must be placed as paramount, rather than comments and stories for the purpose of sensationalism.”
Last night, however, Griffith told Guardian Media that he promises to “back off” from the media if “they do their job right.”
“If arms of the media feel glorifying persons of interest by giving them media publicity is “doing their job,” it shows that some need to be trained. What do they gain by doing this? How does this help the greater good? How does this help the interest of the public? Why don’t they go and hunt down the hundreds of families who lost their loved ones at the hands of gang members? What makes a community leader so special to them? Why are they so eager to find the views and comments of the very few that support criminals and benefit from criminal behaviour?” Griffith said.
He added: “As I said, this is a multi-billion industry. It is easy for some of them to write what they feel about citizens but they get offended when others say how they feel about them. That is hypocrisy. I would back off if they do their job right and stop operating like a TT Enquirer.”