The Media Association of T&T (Matt) is calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to honour the pledge she made before being elected into office that there would be freedom of the press. In a two-page letter penned to Persad-Bissessar, Matt president Kerry Peters called for her to say why Fazeer Mohammed was dismissed from the talk show First Up, since it refused to accept the explanation given by interim chief executive officer of state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG).
Ali said CNMG had to undergo cost-cutting measures. The letter was delivered to the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair yesterday. The Prime Minister is expected to return home today from New York. Peters and members of the Matt executive held its first news conference since elected in September. The letter stated: "The association condemns the removal of CNMG talk show host Mr Fazeer Mohammed as a measure which amounts to an attack on the freedom of the press. "The association also believes that the selection of Mr Andy Johnson to host the First Up programme is an error of judgment, given his substantive role as head of Government Information Services.
"The conflict of interest is obvious to all." Speaking with reporters at the Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Peters said Matt anticipated "a quick response" upon the Prime Minister's return to T&T. Peters said he did not want to minimise the concerns of certain members of society, but wanted to ensure freedom of the press and the rights of journalists. The letter stated: "We wish to remind you that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are clearly articulated fundamental constitutional rights of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. "The Media Association views very seriously any attack on those freedoms," it said.
"Before being elected, you pledged on more than one occasion that your government would ensure the media in Trinidad and Tobago would remain free and would be protected from harassment and intimidation. "We call on you now to honour that commitment to freedom of the press." Matt vice-president Judy Raymond said Persad-Bissessar had "to clear the air" on the fiasco. She said the Prime Minister was "ultimately the minister with the responsibility for information" and was to some extent "in charge of CNMG." "We are going directly to the Prime Minister to ask her if maybe, it's possible there is some terrible misunderstanding here," Raymond said.
"We are giving her the opportunity to clear the air and to afford us the accountability and transparency." She condemned Ali accompanying the Prime Minister, since he was an interim CEO and hoped a satisfactory explanation could be provided. "It is rather surprising...I can't imagine a previous CEO going along with the Prime Minister on a trip like that, in that kind of capacity," she added. As for Johnson replacing Mohammed, Raymond said: "It is not all appropriate." She said, however: "My personal view is that Andy is a very nice guy, perhaps he was just trying to help out in a tight spot."