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Williams defends death threat statements

By Joan Rampersad Monday, May 26 2014

Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams defended his statements made during a radio interview conducted by i95.5fm’s Head of News, Dale Enoch on Friday morning on alleged death threats against TV6 journalist Mark Bassant.

Following that interview, both the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) and Martin Daly SC expressed their shock at William’s statements, with the latter calling for his immediate dismissal.

Williams told Newsday yesterday that though he has great respect for Daly in his capacity as an attorney-at-law, and agreed that there is freedom of the press constitutionally guaranteed in Trinidad and Tobago, he will never do anything to interfere with such freedom.

He said he hoped Daly had the opportunity to listen to the short interview with Enoch and him on Friday morning, and did not write his statement on the basis of what he (Daly) read in the daily newspapers on Saturday.

He said: “During the short interview, I never said that the journalist Mark Bassant ‘has looked for it by his irresponsibility’ and I did not allude to that. I wonder whether Mr Daly is aware of what exactly journalist Mark Bassant reported to the police. I will not engage in a war of words with Mr Daly or any one else as individuals are entitled to their personal opinions.

However I will arrange for the publication of a transcript of what I said in the interview.” Williams then confirmed the quote attributed to him by a reporter in another daily newspaper on May 25. He stated that it was correct with the exception of one word “can”.

He said: “The correct word stated by me is ‘can’t’. It may be important for me to confirm here the quote to which I refer in that article.

It reads: “There were a lot of statements and utterances made by Mr Bassant which have been very irresponsible on his part on things which are incorrect, which I know as a fact are incorrect, which I CAN’T just put in the public domain based on the office I hold and the access to information that I have. And some of that, I believe may have triggered the issue of a threat being made against Mr Mark Bassant.”

“This statement is just part of the interview that I had with radio personality Mr Dale Enoch and must be considered with the rest of what I said in the interview. It requires a person to engage in mental gymnastics to jump from what I said to reach the conclusion that I effectively said that ‘television journalist, Mark Bassant has looked for it, namely by his irresponsibility’.”

Williams also wanted to remind Daly that 2013 has been, what he termed as, the most successful year in policing in Trinidad and Tobago for many decades, listing a 26 percent reduction in serious crimes over the 2012 annual total, a 30 percent reduction in violent crimes (with the exception of murders), a 14 percent reduction in road traffic accidents and 21 percent reduction in deaths on our roadways, all under his leadership.

“I believe freedom of the press allows Mr Daly to express his opinion and provides me with the opportunity to refute what he has stated,” said Williams who vowed to continue to be responsible in all his public statements and will not be deterred in anyway by detractors.

He said, “I will stay focused on the responsibility of leading the Police Service through a very challenging period where one of our exceptional citizens has been brutally murdered. We need to rally together as law-abiding citizens to do everything legally possible to bring the perpetrators of that crime and all other such crimes, to justice.”

Williams also assured MATT and all its members that he supports freedom of the press and will do all within his power to ensure that media practitioners are allowed to perform their role without threat or intimidation by anyone.

However, he said the media has an obligation to report matters in a responsible manner as journalism like many other professions is guided by ethical standards.

He then stated that it is a fact that Bassant published articles and made presentations in both print and the electronic media following the murder of prominent attorney Dana Seetahal.

“As the head of the Police Service, I am aware that those publications and presentations had major inaccuracies. I acted in a very responsible manner by calling a press conference the day of the murder and another a few days later where I cautioned the media about the many inaccuracies that were being reported and with a level of care, corrected some of the media statements. I begged for the cooperation of the media as sensationalism was promoting fear and panic among members of our society. I heard no comment from MATT and I may say that MATT’s silence has been deafening.”

Williams continued, “Mr Mark Bassant made some extreme publications for which I received numerous queries and comments from many citizens.

“It is following the series of publications by Mr Mark Bassant that he reported to the police that he received a threat to his life. I have simply stated facts and did not in any way seek to legitimise the threat made on the life of journalist Mark Bassant.

“I gave in the short interview with Mr Dale Enoch a clear statement that the Police Service was treating the matter very seriously and had assigned all the necessary resources to conduct a speedy investigation. I wish to further state that a threat to the life of any citizen regardless of circumstances will always be treated as a very serious matter by the Police Service.”

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