The following is a press release by the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) to mark World Press Freedom Day:
On World Press Freedom Day 2015, MATT pays tribute to all the champions of press freedom and freedom of expression in Trinidad and Tobago and the region. We acknowledge and salute those who continue to assume the risks associated with their efforts.
The right to press freedom and freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The T&T media contribute to shaping public opinion, mediate tensions between the State and civil society, function as watchdogs over public processes and guard against the abuse of power by those who hold it. It is this sacrosanct mandate that makes free media a prerequisite for development, democracy, human rights and good governance through rigorous scrutiny of those who have been entrusted with power.
For these reasons MATT is actively involved in defending press freedom and encouraging public conversations about the diverse ways in which that essential freedom is exercised.
We continue to monitor alarming trends in Trinidad and Tobago that impact the ability of the media to function freely. Online bullying of journalists—in particular, though not exclusively, female journalists—and recent legal manoeuvres to force journalists to reveal their sources constitute threats against press freedom.
MATT invites journalists to be thoughtful about their rights as well as their responsibilities; the law, high ethical thresholds and self-regulation guide both journalists and media managers. At the same time, we recognise that bullying and intimidation have the potential to force journalists to self-censor, to withhold publication/broadcast of certain information in order to avoid becoming targets of lawsuits, personal attacks and economic ill fortune.
We are steadfast in our support for our professional colleagues who stand in the line of fire and we salute their dedicated contributions to the ethical duties of journalism.
We urge our colleagues to stay committed to the core values of principled journalism and the goal of informing, educating and provoking critical thought.
We remind the public that they have a critical role in shaping media content, in establishing the boundaries of good taste through comment and debate over what is published/broadcast and in defending their right to information.
MATT continues to mourn the recent passing of distinguished members of the media fraternity, journalists Raoul Pantin and Sandra Chouthi and media owner Mohan Jaikaran. On World Press Freedom Day 2015, we remember their dedicated service.