I vehemently condemn Dr. Rowley for his scathing attack on not one but two major media houses in just one week. His unfounded assaults, laced with misinformation, are telling that should Rowley ever hold office, the media may be severely restricted. Not only is Dr. Rowley guilty of vulgar self-promotion but he espouses a simple minded interpretation of the role of the media.
Last week Wednesday, at a political meeting Dr. Rowley brought Express columnist Lennox Grant under fire for describing Rowley’s plans to return to Vision 2020 as “time-warped.” He described Grant as a “politician who once ran against the PNM and lost his deposit”, but Mr. Grant was never a candidate. Then he erroneously attempted to correct this blunder by referring to Mr. Grant as the general secretary of Tapia. Dr. Rowley in his arrogance obviously does not see the need to validate his opinions by first checking the facts instead of casting aspersions not once but twice! Dr. Rowley continued with his despotic behaviour attacking the Guardian and Guardian media Ltd’s deputy managing director and managing editor Dr Hamid Ghany for the editorial in Saturday’s paper in defence of Mr. Grant.
These attacks come on the heels of last month’s threat of legal action against radio station Talk City 91.1FM by PNM general secretary Ashton Ford for what he perceives to be “a campaign of hate against Rowley” by statements made by a guest on a morning talk show. Mr. Ford said that this is not the first time Dr. Rowley has been subjected to brutal attacks. And they are hoping to put an end to the abuse and misinformation that goes on the radio with impunity.
The repression emerging from the PNM by Dr. Rowley and his associates are tantamount to a political planasse on the media and is very disturbing. It represents a direct contravention of the fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago in Chapter 1:4(k), which ensures freedom of the press.
This government has faced the brunt of media criticism and we have never lashed out at the media in the manner that Dr. Rowley has done. In fact, it is the People’s Partnership government has taken concrete measures to expand press freedom by repealing Section 8 of the Libel and Defamation Amendment Bill which held that any publication of defamatory material even if inadvertently published would draw a term of one year’s imprisonment and a fine.
Senator the Honorable Devant Maharaj
Minister of Food Production
March 24, 2014