The following is a press release from the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) in relation to the arrest of Crime Watch television host, Ian Alleyne, by Inspector Roger Alexander from competing reality crime show, Beyond The Tape, and the subsequent media coverage of the matter:
The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) has taken note of the recent on-camera clash between the hosts of two rival popular crime-focused television shows that culminated in the arrest of one programme host by the other.
In this instance, the arresting officer, Insp Roger Alexander, is also the main presenter of Beyond the Tape, a co-production of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and CCN TV6. The sensational tone of the video recordings of the physical confrontation has attracted wide media coverage and public comment at home and regionally.
It is not MATT’s role or intention to comment on the legal aspects of a matter now before the court. Rather, MATT seeks to address media-related questions that arise.
1) The Association is very concerned about the degree of physical force used by the arresting officer, Insp Roger Alexander, on his media competitor and former colleague.
The TTPS is reminded that in today’s changing media environment, increasing numbers of people operate as non-traditional agents of public information. These include bloggers, internet reporters, cell phone photographers, citizen journalists and whistleblowers.
The right of these people to reasonable treatment from the police while pursuing a story must be respected.
Even in instances where misdemeanors by traditional journalists and/or citizen journalists prompt police action, that action must be commensurate with the circumstances. In MATT’s view, the degree of force used by the arresting officer appears disproportionate to the offence and the circumstances.
MATT questions the refusal of the TTPS to investigate these allegations of excessive force.
MATT notes another potential breach of conduct by the police in a recent video circulating on social media that appears to be recorded by police officers at the Chaguanas Police Station. The video shows the defendant being taunted and ridiculed.
The Association calls for clear policies at crime scenes so that journalists and others can continue to cover the news without fear and intimidation.
2) The Association is disappointed with and deeply concerned about CNC3’s apparent breach of a fundamental principal of journalistic ethics i.e. misleading the public. The video broadcast by CNC3 purporting to show the public the confrontation was edited to exclude the use of obscene language by the Crime Watch host.
It was CNC3’s duty to inform the public that the video had been altered. Not having done so, CNC3 omitted essential features of the confrontation and that omission amounted to misrepresentation. This left the public none the wiser until a rival media house obtained and broadcast the full recording.
This breach of duty requires CNC3 to make amends with the public it serves and the industry in which it operates.
3) MATT further notes that potential ethical conflicts are generated in this matter by the comingling of public sector communication (i.e. the TTPS) with the commercial interests of private sector media (i.e. CCN TV6).
Both law enforcement and the media serve the public interest in different ways. In that service, the public should be furnished with detailed information on the protocols that govern the Beyond the Tape programme.
MATT calls on both organisations to divulge, in the public interest:
- How responsibilities for content are divided between the two organisations
- Who has responsibility for editing and approving content prior to broadcast
- Conflict-of-interest guidelines for the TTPS representative, Insp Roger Alexander, and for TV6’s assignments editor and co-host, Mr Marlan Hopkinson
- What avenues have been established for redress for citizens who have complaints about the programme and which of the two organisations has responsibility for investigating and adjudicating those complaints
- Details of the commercial arrangement between the TTPS and CCN TV6, including which entity solicits commercial advertising and what happens to the advertising revenue generated by the programme
- What quantum of revenue is generated for CCN TV6 by the programme’s favourable rating in the annual Media facts and Opinion (MFO) survey and how that revenue is distributed between the two organisations, and
- Whether hosts Insp Roger Alexander and Mr Marlan Hopkinson perform their on-air roles as aspects of their respective contractual arrangements or whether those arrangements have been expanded.
Further, journalists should be advised by the TTPS whether all views expressed on the programme are authorised by the TTPS, what happens when views expressed on the programme contradict those issued by the TTPS through its Ag Commissioner and/or official spokespeople, and whether all views expressed on the programme could be safely attributed by journalists as endorsed by the Ag Commissioner of Police.
It is imperative that these multiple issues are addressed unambiguously as they impact fundamental media ethics and have spawned problems that will require additional tax dollars, police hours, legal and other expertise to remedy.