Sacked co�host of the morning talkshow – First Up – Fazeer Mohammed says the show is now open to political interference.
Comments posted on social networking site Facebook, where C News and First Up each has a page, indicated that Mohammed had been fired following an interview on last Thursday's show with Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan over Prime Minister Kamla Persad�Bissessar's statements about providing aid to Caribbean countries affected by Hurricane Tomas.
First Up is aired simultaneously on Channel Six and Talk City 91.1 FM by state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) and has been hosted by Mohammed and Jessie May Ventour since June 2007. Contacted yesterday, Mohammed said he hadn't been fired but was "taken off the programme." Mohammed, who is a long�standing journalist, said he was disappointed by the decision. He is awaiting official word from interim chief executive officer Ken Ali about his status. He said: "I was called in on Saturday to a meeting with the human resources manager Christine Johnson and was advised that the company had to undergo cost cutting measures and Andy Johnson would replace me.
"It was explained that Andy will not be of an additional cost and Government would be seconding his services from GISL." During Thursday's interview Mohammed had asked Rambachan whether Persad�Bissessar's statements were diplomatic. Rambachan, however, directed a question to Mohammed and there was an exchange of comments about Mohammed's religious views. Mohammed said his replacement had nothing to do with what occurred on the show. He said: "I have not been dismissed. I was also offered other options which were not acceptable to me. It is disappointing to be off the show."
He said he would now explore his options since the media had opened up. Mohammed added the programme's popularity had grown over the years because he and Ventour were seen as "direct, unbiased, straightforward and respected." While he said he had utmost respect for Johnson who has been heading Government's Information Unit, Mohammed said: "The show's journalistic integrity could be compromised." Asked if the move was political, Mohammed said if the reason for pulling him off the show was to cut cost, then the evidence would show. He said it would be wrong for him to speculate otherwise.
What was said
Mohammed: "You as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, would you consider it diplomatic to say for example that Trinidad and Tobago is not an ATM card for the region or that there must be some way that our local people can benefit? Is that diplomatic language?"
Rambachan: "You can argue that from now until eternity and you might want to delve into that point... but... I want to ask you a question. Last time I was here you seemed to have some specific problem with Mrs Bissessar's leadership. Is that so?"
Mohammed: "No I don't have a problem with Mrs Persad�Bissessar's leadership." (Rambachan interrupts)
Rambachan: Philosophically, do you subscribe to women in leadership positions?"
Mohammed: "Well in... religiously no."
Rambachan: "Religiously no?"
Rambachan: "So that if you'd have a Prime Minister Kamla Persad�Bissessar as the prime minister of the country, would you subscribe to a woman being the prime minister of this country?"
Mohammed: "I have no problem with that."
Rambachan: "But you said religiously you have a problem...
Mohammed: "Religiously no but there is a difference between religion and country... I don't know if you're trying to paint me into...(inaudible) as far as my religious philosophy...
Mohammed: "But Dr Rambachan you are trying to evade the point... you are trying to draw in my religious philosophy on women in leadership with the leadership of a country which is very different and I am trying to deal with the fundamental issue of the comments in relation to the situation in those islands..."
To view full interview visit http://video.ctntworld.com/view/460/first-up-online-041110/