THE court’s findings on a police raid on a media house in March is being hailed as a watershed moment for press freedom.
"It is ultimately a win for every citizen of TT,” the Media Association (MATT) said in a statement on Wednesday, hours after Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that the police raid on Express House was unconstitutional.
"It is a win for the public interest, a win for every journalist in the country and every media house, a win for whistleblowers and a big win for democracy."
One Caribbean Media Group Ltd, the Trinidad Express Newspapers and editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder had filed a constitutional claim against the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police and Supt Wendell Lucas, who led the raid on March 11, 2020.
Compensation was ordered for the media house for the constitutional breaches by the police when it executed two flawed search warrants in search of information which could lead them to a journalist’s source.
The raid came after the publication of an investigative piece on ACP Irwin Hackshaw's being flagged by local banks. The police seized several devices from Lyder’s office at Independence Square, Port of Spain. At the time of the raid, Hackshaw was acting commissioner of police.
Seepersad held that the two search warrants obtained by the police for the media house in search of information which could lead them to a journalist’s source were “plainly irregular,” unlawful and unconstitutional as they disproportionally infringed on the media house’s rights to freedom of the press.
In its release, MATT, which was included in the proceedings before the judge and allowed to make submissions as an interested party, said the court’s ruling, in these uncertain times, was “anchored in certainty about protecting the institution of a free press and protecting citizens of TT.”
“The judge's ruling is informed by current global thinking. It offers tangible guidance to the police and the legislature on reforming processes to protect individual citizens and the flow of information in the society.
“MATT feels confident that the constitutional right to a free press is safe in the bosom of our court,” the association said.