Friday, November 9, 2012

Letter: Is the DPP's "warning" a threat to media freedom or just an attempt at bullying?

The newspapers are reporting how Director of Public Prosecutions has warned media houses from publishing "anything which might jeopardise, hinder or otherwise prejudice the investigation or any possible proceedings which might result from it", citing "such infractions may amount to a contempt of court".

The newspapers are also reporting the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has "retained the services of Lord Pannick QC, a barrister and life peer who once represented the Queen, to represent the State in the lawsuit brought by Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, in the wake of the Section 34 fiasco".

Allegedly, there are many criminal charges waiting to be laid or that could have been laid many years now against the same two men but have not been filed. As the prosecutorial authority given such responsibility exclusively under our laws, the DPP is yet to give an acceptable reason.

The newspapers have reported that on February 22, ex-Minister Volney wrote to the DPP "requesting an impact assessment relative to Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Criminal Proceedings) Act, notifying of the Ministry's intention to implement the Act by June 2012 and that the DPP, by letter dated May 22, responded that some 47 persons would benefit". 

What's more, the newspapers also mentioned, "the DPP did not elaborate, did not identify likely beneficiaries, nor did he express any concerns on the issue of possible negative impact. He is the custodian of all records of criminal proceedings in Trinidad and Tobago. Indeed, he is constitutionally mandated to prosecute all criminal causes."

As far as we know, the office of DPP is an independent one and it can act on its own before, during and after any criminal charges are laid by anyone, if any incumbent DPP deems it would further the cause of criminal justice. 

So, the DPP's office is legally given all the clout it needs to speed up the criminal justice process. A notable example would be when it dropped everything to intervene and emancipate persons detained under the 2011 State of Emergency.

To read now of the DPP threatening the media with contempt of court charges is hilarious to the point of astounding. 

The DPP, either as an official or natural person, is not lawfully vested with the demeanour or authority to bully anyone, merely to do his/her job or to pack it in if he/she cannot. Furthermore, the DPP is not a court, though the DPP can technically pardon someone before the court finds them guilty.

Lastly, the newspapers also reported "a senior attorney said it may be impossible for the media to comply with such a warning since the Commission of Enquiry was being held in public where the details of the conduct of former CL Financial directors were being revealed".

In my view, the attorney either was asked or answered the wrong question, since the bottom line line is a mere investigation by the DPP doesn't make a matter sub-judice; in fact, it doesn't even create "a matter", for "a matter" is born either when charges are filed and necessary papers served or when a trial begins. In other words, nothing can be sub judice unless it is under judicial deliberation or before a judge or court of law.

The media needs to lock arms and lodge a united objection to this blatant threat to press freedom, for it seems for whatever reason, the DPP's in a state of panic.

Heston Corbie | 69 Prizgar Lands, Laventille.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai