The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) said yesterday it "is deeply disturbed by the recent developments at state-owned Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG)." The association, in a news release, stated it wanted to know why Fazeer Mohammed, one of the hosts of the First Up programme, was relieved of duty and at what level the decision was taken to terminate his employment at station.
Following is the association's statement:
"With regard to the firing of Fazeer Mohammed, one of the hosts of the First Up programme, the Media Association would like to know why and at what level the decision was taken to terminate Mr Mohammed's employment with the station. "MATT would also appreciate an explanation as to its timing. "Mr Mohammed was fired without warning last Saturday, two days after he interviewed a Government Minister who appeared to be displeased by his line of questioning. "The Media Association hopes CNMG can give a categorical assurance that there was no causal connection between those two events.
"In MATT's view, Mr Mohammed was conducting the interview in a professional manner and was raising questions and concerns shared by many members of the public, both locally and overseas. "The timing of his dismissal, however, gives the impression that he was penalised for doing his job. "Whatever the reason for the termination of Mr Mohammed's employment, it was a very serious error of judgement to replace him with Andy Johnson, head of Government Information Services Limited (GISL). "The Media Association has the greatest respect for Mr Johnson, who was a leading practitioner in the field for many years. "However, Mr Johnson is no longer a practising journalist, but is now clearly aligned with the Government of the day.
"His objectives and responsibilities as head of GISL are therefore in direct conflict with those of an independent journalist. "For Mr Johnson to be given the role of host of a news programme at CNMG, a state-owned media house, gives the impression that the Government views CNMG as an extension of GISL. "In fact, however, CNMG is intended to work in the public interest to provide independent news and opinion. "Mr Johnson's hosting of the programme, especially in the wake of Mr Mohammed's ouster, will make it extremely difficult for CNMG to be seen as a source of unbiased information. "The Media Association therefore hopes that Mr Johnson's stint as host of First Up will be brought to a rapid end and that he will be immediately replaced by someone who has no such conflict of interest and is currently qualified for this particular job."