COMMISSIONER of Police Gary Griffith has a piece of advice for the executive of the Media Association (MATT) - consult first, get the facts first, before shooting off press releases with demands.
His advice, contained in a press release yesterday, comes after MATT issued a release on Saturday calling for both Commissioner Griffith and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, SC, to explain how the case of an alleged assault against a journalist collapsed in the courts for a lack of prosecution.
MATT was referring to the recent dismissal of charges against A&V Drilling CEO Haniff Nazim Baksh and his son-in-law Cpl Billy Ramsundar, for the alleged assault of Guardian photographer Kristian da Silva in September 2017.
Griffith in his release said MATT was rightfully concerned about the collapse of the case but added that he as commissioner has already commenced an investigation, by meeting the Head of the Professional Standards Bureau on the weekend, to ascertain what transpired, what can be done and what action should be taken.
The top cop reiterated that the police would do all that is required to ensure the safety of journalists and he reminded the public that they cannot debar the media from doing their duties, especially if they are in a public space. He said such incidents as physically preventing reporters from public spaces and trying to block them from taking photographs can be deemed an offence.
He however pointed out to MATT, led by Dr Sheila Rampersad, that its "new policy" of trying to deal with every concern via issuance of media releases, may not be the way to go because at times, dialogue could have been a better avenue than making public statements.
He said the previous MATT executive was fully aware of this and constantly met with the CoP if at any time there was any matter of concern, to get the facts of the matter first and not making public statements based on emotion.
"It is interesting that the new MATT executive would see it fit to issue a media release to demand explanations from the TTPS and the DPP, without even having the basic courtesy to ask to meet with both parties, in order to ascertain what may have gone wrong," Griffith said.
He said that he as commissioner has on several occasions asked to meet with MATT but the association has refused to do so, "hence this pattern of media releases for confrontation is not unique with the apparent leadership style of MATT."
He said it would be interesting to know why MATT did not ask to meet with the police or DPP, to clarify what took place, instead of "blasting" a media release. It can lead one to wonder, Griffith said, if MATT's focus is more on discrediting agencies instead of finding a way to solve a problem. He wondered if MATT’s new format is not to meet but to attack the police.