Interim chief executive officer at state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) Ken Ali says he alone took the decision to sack talk show host Fazeer Mohammed as co-host of the station's simulcast First Up. Ali said this during an interview at Piarco International Airport yesterday, after his return to the country. He was part of the Government's delegation which visited the United States earlier this week. "This decision was taken by me, myself and I...No one else," Ali insisted when questioned about the suspicious timing of the development, days after a controversial interview Mohammed had with Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan.
Ali dismissed claims that his decision was an act of religious discrimination against Mohammed. Ali, who described himself as "the man in the eye of the storm," noted that his name was "also Islamic." Ali said: "This issue has spun out of control like Hurricane Tomas and all of this could have been pre-empted if I was given the opportunity to explain the facts." He said he had always stood in defence of press freedom, during his 36 years as a journalist. He said he had paid a price "for making a personal sacrifice for the maintenance of the freedom of the press in T&T." He insisted that he had no intention of interfering with the day-to-day running of the CNMG newsroom. He said all he wanted to do was to make the network a "lean and mean" network.
He said Mohammed's removal was part of an ongoing exercise to make the station more competitive in the morning. Ali said Andy Johnson, who had replaced Mohammed on the show, was the best man to achieve that objective. Ali said he felt Mohammed could have played "a greater role in matters of sport, youth development and so on." He added that he was interested in Mohammed working at the network in those areas. Ali questioned what would people say when Christians were affected by further restructuring at the company. He wanted to know if it would be religious discrimination. He said he felt "disappointed" that his side of the matter was not sought by more journalists. Meanwhile, Rambachan, who also spoke at the same news conference, said Mohammed's removal had nothing to do with the interview he had with him last week.
Rambachan said it had to do with the restructuring taking place at the television station. He said he was "very disheartened to hear that people are making a link between the interview and the reallocation of Mr Mohammed." Many people have been critical of Rambachan for questioning Mohammed's religious beliefs during the interview. But Rambachan said yesterday that the interview was "very pleasant." He said the two shook hands at its completion. Rambachan described Mohammed as "a very respected journalist and a professional in his own right." He said the interview with Mohammed was "very intelligent." (RL)