MATT hits at police's lack of response following attack on Guardian news photographer

Sunday, May 8, 2016 - 20:00

The Media Association is condemning an attack on Guardian news photographer Rishi Ragoonath by a prisoner who temporary escaped police custody outside of the San fernando Magistrate's Court.

MATT is frowning upon the police's failure to issue a public statement on the matter.

The following is a statement from MATT:

"We extend full support to Guardian photographer Rishi Ragoonath who was physically assaulted by a prisoner who escaped police custody outside the San Fernando courthouse on May 5, 2016. Mr Ragoonath sustained injuries to his person and damage to his camera and spectacles. The prisoner also verbally threatened him with further violence.

The Association has communicated its support to Mr Ragoonath and commends all media workers who have expressed solidarity with him. We encourage journalists to continue their steadfast support of one another while we continue to monitor this incident along with others in which journalists are facing a variety of threats arising out of their work.

MATT has communicated with Mr Ragoonath’s editor-in-chief, Orin Gordon, to further establish our support for Mr Ragoonath and to encourage an immediate offer of professional psychological assistance from Guardian Media Ltd. We were assured that the Guardian was in communication with its photographer and assistance would be promptly extended.

Investigation launched into how prisoner escaped

Mr Ragoonath has reported the offence to the police but MATT appreciates that, at a time when “hits” are reportedly being called from behind prison walls, Mr Ragoonath must be fearful for his and his family’s safety. The Association has communicated with Ag Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams who informed us that an investigation was immediately launched to determine how the prisoner was able to escape police custody to assault Mr Ragoonath.

While we appreciate the Commissioner’s prompt action, we further call on him to ensure that the investigation is expeditious and that the TTPS publicly reveal the outcome of its investigation and what action it intends to take post-investigation. Additionally, the TTPS also has to take responsibility for Mr Ragoonath’s physical and psychological injuries and damage to his photographic equipment and his spectacles. We remind the TTPS that the police was responsible for securing the prisoner at the time of the assault. It is unacceptable that thus far the TTPS has made no public statement on this matter nor has it reached out to Mr Ragoonath.

MATT sees this incident as demonstrative of the poor state of prisoner security especially in the context of other breaches of security by prisoners being transported to and from court in the Southern Division. The Association takes this matter very seriously in the context of general citizen insecurity and the number of murders that reportedly have been coordinated by prisoners from inside the prisons.

Risks faced by journalists

This incident highlights the risks faced by many journalists on the job. The work of journalists and photojournalists is often hazardous and media professionals in serving the public interest require great personal courage. Trauma of violence, threats and intimidation, including cyber-bullying campaigns, must be recognised as daily threats to the freedom of information. It is imperative that media houses and their management recognise Trinidad and Tobago's rapidly changing social environment and strengthen internal protocols and policies to support and protect the health and safety of media workers. This includes immediate access to physical and psychological medical care, adequate insurance coverage for journalists operating in the field or arising out of stories published and increased security when necessary.

MATT will continue to closely monitor this matter."