Congress of the People political leader Prakash Ramadhar is condemning Thursday's police raid on Newsday and is giving Commission of Police Dwayne Gibbs until today to explain the reasons behind the 'atrocious attack' on the media. Ramadhar gave the 24-hour ultimatum during yesterday's news conference at the Parliament, Tower D, International Waterfront Complex, Port-of-Spain. Police raided Newsday's office in Port-of-Spain and the home of its political reporter Andre Bagoo to determine the source of a story published on December 20, 2011 about the a matter being investigated by the Integrity Commission.
Ramadhar said if Gibbs failed to respond to his call, the COP had other plans in place. "We don't act lightly. There is always a plan of action," the Legal Affairs Minister added. Ramadhar said he was confident that Gibbs will "act with alacrity" in the matter. Ramadhar said he spoke with Gibbs about the police raid but was unable to reveal the details of the conversation. He said Gibbs must inform citizens of the offence being investigated by his officers that warranted such a breach of the right of the freedom of the press in T&T. Ramadhar said he was not suggesting that the police did not have their responsibilities and duties but he said they must carry out those responsibilities within the narrow confines of the law.
Ramadhar said the COP "condemn that action of the police, whether it is a criminal investigation or not." He said in future any similar warrants should be authorised by a High Court judge. "If you don't have confidentiality of your sources you have nothing. And this is an arrow in the heart of the responsibilities and authority of the media," The COP leader said. Ramadhar, who is the Legal Affairs Minister in the People's Partnership Government, said the citizens of T&T should now stand together as one in defence of maintaining press freedom in the country. "We see this as an atrocious attack on the freedom of the press. And we must all be vigilant to ensure that this is not repeated in the almost callous way it has been," he said.
Ramadhar said the latest incident came in the wake of another police raid at CCN TV6 recently. He said if the media were not protected it could be silenced "and in silence anything can go." Ramadhar insisted that Gibbs' probe must be a meaningful one. He told reporters that Gibbs did not have prior knowledge of the police raid. "A matter that impacts upon a fundamental human right on an institution of state, a media house, and he was not in the know," Ramadhar said.
Ramadhar said the media should question Gibbs on his lack of knowledge of the raid. Ramadhar said other Government ministers were appalled by the latest police raid on the newspaper. "We have to appreciate that the media are in a separate and special category. They are the protectors of the rights of the people," he stressed.