PM starts legal action against radio station over comments

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. FILE PHOTO -
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. FILE PHOTO -

THE Prime Minister has initiated legal action against a former UNC candidate turned radio talk-show host and other parties over offensive comments allegedly made about him on air.

In a brief comment on Tuesday, Dr Rowley said,"I don't have to rely on the ministry for any assistance. This matter will be prosecuted by my private attorneys and they have already been instructed to take all necessary legal actions against all offending parties."

In a letter dated November 17 to radio station 104.7 FM manager Sharon Amar, director of government communications at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Lt Cdr Kirk Jean-Baptiste said during a programme aired at 7.30 am on that same date, on the station, host Lennox Smith directly referred to Rowley in certain derogatory terms.

Jean-Baptiste, in the letter, described the comments about Rowley as an unwarranted and erroneous statement by the station. The OPM's Communications Division formally demanded a copy of the entire programme Smith hosted, during which the comment was said to have been made, to be delivered to its offices at the TIC Building, Lady Young Road, Morvant by 3 pm on November 17.

Newsday understands a copy of the programme was submitted as demanded. Sources said a second letter was subsequently sent to 104.7 FM.

A government source said, "The request was made. Mrs Amar facilitated the request. It was sent to the minister in the OPM, with responsibility for communications (Symon de Nobriga) and I believe he would have sent it on to the Prime Minister." From then, it was entirely up to Rowley on how to deal with the matter

Smith and officials at 104.7 FM could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Smith unsuccessfully contested the Laventille/East constituency for the UNC in the 2007 general elections. He also served as a temporary opposition UNC senator on May 26, 2009 and is the former leader of the now defunct Laventille for Laventillians party, which had a political alliance with the UNC in 2007.

In a statement, the Media Association of TT (MATT) president Ira Mathur said as the fourth estate and a public accountability watchdog, the media are mandated to ensure Government is held to account. The public's business must be conducted transparently, with public records being made available to everyone.

"To protect these rights, we must remain vigilant both within and without our profession to ensure that we self-regulate to abide by the same high standards we expect of others," Mathur said.

Mathur said MATT is reminding media colleagues that "ethical and professional journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues, and the public as human beings deserving of respect."

The TT Media Complaints Council (MCC) remains the official channel to receive complaints under the TT Publishers and Broadcasters Association.

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