THE annual human rights report out of the US Department of State has cleared this country of having any problems related to freedom of the press, the Government Information Services Ltd (GISL) stated on Monday.
In a media release, GISL said the report, which looks at human rights developments in the Americas, left the government “unindicted” on matters of media freedom.
And while the report, which spanned the year 2012, saw no grounds on which to cite any derogation of rights to citizens by the judicial system, it did find that too much of a log-jam existed.
“There are many areas in which the report declares in the negative as to whether human rights violations have taken place in Trinidad and Tobago. And where there are reports of incidents highlighted, there is no direct culpability ascribed against the Government,” GISL stated.
“On such matters as freedom of the press, violence and harassment, allegations of advertising boycotts by the Government, censorship and content restrictions, Internet freedom and academic freedom and cultural events, the government remains unindicted, and the report notes that laws regarding many of these matters remained ‘uninvoked’ for the period under review.”
The report noted an increase in the criticism directed at the Trinidad and Tobago media by government officials who charged biased reporting.
It also mentioned an incident last year in which Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed sent a critical and personal e-mail to TV6 head of News, Dominic Kalipersad, criticising the station’s content as being anti-government, GISL said.
GISL added the report does, however, refer to the fact that “international press freedom groups criticised the minister’s action” and that the matter was well ventilated in the media and in public discourses in the national community.
“The report itself made no declaration against the government on this account,” GISL said.
On the subject “Denial of a Fair Public Trial”, the report stated that “although the judicial system was generally fair, it was slow due to backlogs and inefficiencies”.
Prosecutors and judges stated that witness intimidation remained a problem during the year, GISL said but added that there was no finding of this as an indictment against the Government.
“The government was reported as permitting visits to prisons by independent human rights observers, and was found not to have invoked any powers for ‘Arbitrary Arrest or Detention’ outside of the period of the state of emergency in 2011,” GISL stated.
The powers of “search and seizure” effected during the SoE were not carried over into ordinary time and “reports of abuses by police remained under investigation”, the report said.
“While nearly all of the persons arrested during the SoE were eventually released because of lack of credible evidence, the report said some of those arrested have sued the government, and further, the courts made several awards in cases from previous years brought by persons, on grounds of wrongful arrest and imprisonment,” GISL stated and added:
“The report said the most serious human rights problems it identified, involved police killings during apprehension or in custody, and poor treatment of suspects, detainees and prisoners.”
Other problems, such as inmate illnesses and injuries due to poor prison conditions, high profile cases of alleged bribery, violence and discrimination against women, inadequate services for vulnerable children, and unsafe working conditions, were also noted in the report.
GISL said it was, however, stated that, “The government took some steps to punish security force members and other officials charged with killings or other abuse, while there continued to be a perception of impunity based on the open-ended nature of many investigations and the ‘slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings in general’.