Media workers were threatened and physically attacked in three separate incidents this past week but as they sought to cover the same story. According to a couple of the workers, among their attackers was a police officer.
The incidents occurred in the same location as the journalists sought to take pictures of the Penal premises of a lease operator who has been named in a major audit report that pointed to fraud in the delivery of oil to state-owned Petrotrin. The company, according to the report was billed some $100 million for oil it never received.
Newsday’s photographer Jeff Mayers was warned on Tuesday by one man who pursued him in a vehicle that he would shoot him the next time he saw him in the area. On Friday, Guardian Media photographer Kristian De Silva sustained injuries to his face after being cursed and cuffed by several men, one of whom attempted to run over him in a black Toyota Hilux.
Two days before, TV6 cameraman Phil Britton and a female co-worker went to the same location to cover the story, and while filming from the roadway, someone pelted beer bottles at them from the direction of a nearby house, smashing the back window of his car. Britton and his co-worker shielded themselves behind the car.
De Silva was accused of being on private property. His camera was smashed against a security booth.
De Silva, who sought medical care at Siparia Health Facility, reported the matter to Sgt Taitt at the Penal Police Station. Reporter Sascha Wilson, who was with De Silva, also gave statements to the police. As they made their reports, an acting sergeant who was recognised of one of the men who assaulted De Silva, arrived at the station. The officer, according to the journalists, instructed a constable who was taking their report to omit certain details.
The sergeant and two constables then returned with the TV6 team to where they were attacked and Britton pointed out where his car was parked, but the senior officer insisted the incident occurred in the driveway of a house.
According to the journalists, they (police) never called out to see if anyone was in the house, and the officers repeatedly tried to have the cameraman say he was in the driveway which was not true.
Sunday Newsday learnt police claimed the broken bottle retrieved from the wagon had no “viable” fingerprints.
Sources said Britton became even more traumatised at about 9.45 am yesterday when two policemen in plain-clothes arrived at his home to question him about a traffic ticket, but they left when he produced a receipt as proof of payment.
Mayers reported to Newsday that the driver of a Toyota Land Cruiser accosted him after he took photographs of the compound from the road. After identifying himself to the unknown man who accused him of trespassing, Mayers went to his vehicle and drove off. But the man returned to his vehicle and followed Mayers, while taking pictures with his cellphone. Eventually the man drove in front of Mayer’s vehicle blocking his pathway. He then said: “Next time I see you on the street I will shoot you.” A Penal sergeant in a marked vehicle subsequently intercepted Mayers to inform him that an all-points bulletin had been issued on his vehicle after residents reported that “a Rasta man” was stalking people on the street where the lease operator’s business is located. Police allowed Mayers to drive off without taken further action
A senior policeman said he was unaware of attacks on Britton and Mayers.
“The incident on Friday is being investigated.