The Media Association of Trinidad & Tobago condemns the ongoing smear campaigns currently targeting investigative journalists.
These journalists, who have been conducting legitimate investigations, now find themselves the target of anonymous e-mails being circulated on the Internet by various groups, as well as public attacks on television by senior politicians.
Personal attacks in response to news reports are not a valid or acceptable means of discrediting the information unearthed by journalists who are simply doing their job.
There are various channels available, including legal ones, through which public figures may obtain redress if inaccurate information about them is carried in the media.
The association is supportive of all discussions on public issues in all forums, including new media, the electronic media and the press.
However, it is vital that politicians and moderators of online forums recognise that when clearly politically biased posts or public utterances attack journalists with unsubstantiated and potentially defamatory personal claims, there may be unfortunate consequences.
The people and organisations who carry out or transmit these attacks may open themselves up to legal proceedings.
The larger and more disturbing consequence is that such misguided campaigns against journalists may lead to self-censorship, which is corrosive to transparency in public life.
The Media Association therefore calls on MPs and party officials to deter their followers, both in public and in private, from engaging in these unwarranted attacks on journalists.
If this trend is not rapidly checked, the association fears a trend of organised personal attacks against journalists will eventually damage the ability of the media to report fearlessly, undermine the functioning of the media—which is fundamental to all democracies—and ultimately weaken the rights of all citizens.