MATT: Police investigation must continue despite apology by A&V Oil and Gas

The Media Association is calling on the managers of A&V Oil and Gas Limited to take responsibility for the attacks on media personnel and to fund the replacement of their equipment.

MATT is also calling on the police to continue their investigation into the attacks, despite the apology issued by the group.

MATT issued the following statement today.

"The last few days have been extremely difficult for the media fraternity in Trinidad and Tobago as media workers come to terms with the harassment of and attacks against some of our colleagues.

MATT continues to remind everyone that freedom of the press is entrenched in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago. The media fraternity takes its mandate to inform and educate seriously and MATT speaks for all when it says any attempt to obstruct working journalists from carrying out their duties is a violation of the law.

This Association strongly condemns the occurrences of last week in which Guardian photojournalist, Kristian De Silva, was attacked. Phil Britton and Leona Nicholson, who are attached to TV6, were also harassed and attacked last week. The episode was recorded on camera and remains on social media for all to judge for themselves.

We remain grateful Mr. De Silva, a member of the media fraternity for close to 16 years, did not receive more serious injuries. The same concern goes for Sacha Wilson, Leona Nicholson and Phil Britton. We cannot discount the emotional trauma this could have on the individuals in question. The Media Association and journalists at large look forward to a thorough investigation by the T&T Police Service of these brutal and unwarranted assaults leading to criminal charges against those responsible.

Having said this, MATT recognizes the statements made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and United National Congress chairman, Dr David Lee, over the weekend. MATT views these as necessary statements in the times in which we now live.

A&V Oil and Gas Limited issued a statement asserting its strict legal rights regarding its property. It follows up this statement with something that resembles an apology. We recall an article in the Sunday Express which quotes Mr. Hanif Nazim Baksh, owner of A&V Oil and Gas Limited, as saying, “What the hell he doing there? He lucky I didn’t bounce him down."

Therefore, MATT rejects this cynical attempt to deflect attention away from the violence that occurred.

MATT also underscores that an apology or statement does not mean the TTPS should abandon its investigation and all individuals involved reserve the right to pursue legal action or seek legal advice.

MATT has sought its own legal advice on the subject and has been advised that while A&V Oil and Gas has the right to defend its property it is completely disproportionate in attacking media personnel who all claim they were not trespassing – something A&V Oil and Gas has been unable to otherwise prove.

MATT is still in the process of collecting written statements and remains in contact with those affected.

The heavily worded statement by A&V Oil and Gas Limited also extended an invitation to the media to take a tour of their facilities and observe their operations. Media personnel are to be transported on buses the company will provide. We call on all journalists and their assignment editors to reject this invitation as their safety cannot be guaranteed.

If A&V Oil and Gas Limited is serious about holding its company to account for what it has done we suggest a more sensible approach:

Substantiate the claim that any media personnel subject to attacks were trespassing on the property of A&V Oil and Gas Limited, and, if able to do so, explain which legal authority suggests physical violence as an appropriate response.

Take full responsibility for any involvement in these brutal attacks.

Replace all damaged equipment at once and pay for all medical bills incurred as a result.

Subject itself and its agents to a press conference at a neutral location chosen by us where members of this esteemed profession of journalism will ask questions on behalf of the citizens of this country.

MATT awaits a response.

Finally, the TTPS has assured these matters are being taken seriously. MATT understands the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) will also be conducting investigations."