So, is it that the Trinidad Express is now in the Fake News business?
This is the question, I hope that Omatie Lyder and Denyse Renne have been called upon to answer after the publication of a front-page story of the Sunday Express of November 24, 2019, under the headline “Gary Choked Me.”
On page 3, the lead story alleged that a Cocorite man filed a report into an alleged assault by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith who threatened to kill him.
The story alleged that Cecil Skeete filed a report at the Four Roads Police Station where he stated that he was taken out of his cell into another darkened cell where he met the Commissioner who sought information from him and when it was not forthcoming he placed a gun to his head threatening him to kill him.
The story goes on to allege that Griffith told Skeete that all he had to say was that Skeete reached for his gun and his men would support him.
Renne’s story would make a good plot for an action movie and many people, even good friends of the Commissioner, wanted to know whether he had degenerated into a monster, as a result, the power and the popularity that he is getting.
Many were beginning to question the value system of a man who has demonstrated so much goodwill in the fight against crime. Many were wondering whether the man that we were depending upon to restore law and order in our country had gone rogue.
The plot sounded too real not to be true especially since the alleged report was documented in the Station Diary which mysteriously disappeared. This is what we see in the movies which generally reflect true to life situations in various cultures.
But just as many were mobilising to launch a campaign to get rid of Gary; just at the time when the bad boys and gangsters felt that they had something on their fearsome foe, the Guardian pulled the scoop of the century with a headline that read “I never said CoP choked, pulled gun on me,” a revelation pronounced by Skeete who the Express alleged was a victim of the Commissioner’s indiscretion.
The scoop would have been even more defining if the headlines read “Express Lies: Paper trying to hound the Commissioner out of office.”
The tenets of responsible journalism
What is troubling is that poll after poll identifies the Express as the preferred newspaper for citizens in this country.
Now if that is true, the challenge the Express is now faced with is how will this Media House recapture its credibility when it seems to have been the author of fake news that is so destructive and has the capability to rock the foundations of the Police Service at a time when we should be reposing confidence in them to do what is right. And, to compound it further, the Express says that it stands by its story.
Poor Mr. Skeete had to go and get an affidavit signed to expose the Express lies and to uncover what seems to be a collision with officers at the Four Roads Police Station and the Express to demonize the Commissioner of Police.
Poor Skeete and his family have to now live through a trauma, lived through possible fear of reprisal of which perception has led us to believe that the police are capable and one wonders about the damage caused upon this family and who will compensate them for the distress through which every member has undergone.
Now if Renne’s hatched story has interfered with the nest of renegade cops, what is there now to prevent them from going after Skeete and his family or co-opting the services of miscreants to do their dirty work?
And all of this has come about out from a Media House that is supposed to cherish the tenets of responsible journalism, not descend into the entrails of social media publishing and rather than provide solid investigative work the Media House regresses into “Fake News” to attract the advertising dollar.
What is the penalty the Express will have to pay? How will the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago treat with this attempt to destabilize the national community by bringing a public figure into odium?
If it was Sunshine Today that had authored the “Fake News” surrounding the Commissioner of Police, already we would have been receiving letters requesting the source of our information.
One of the sacred cows
So, is it that the Trinidad Express happens to be one of the sacred cows in our society which is beyond the reach of TATT and law and order and could disrupt the lives of ordinary citizens without any form of redress?
What checks and balances have been put in place to ensure that stories like Skeete’s are no longer faked by the Express House when its journalists seem too indolent to go out in pursuit of real stories to grab the attention and admiration of its once adoring public?
What seems clear is that there is an agenda against the Commissioner of Police and one just wonders if this is because of his attempt to flush out the Mr. Bigs that have held this country to ransom with impunity.
One must ask what is the source for this assault on the character of our Commissioner. Whose toes has he stepped on? And who stands to gain most by seeking to extirpate him from the office where he continues to serve with distinction?
Why should the Express be the source of distraction to take the Commissioner of Police away from his normal duties to be penning answers to stories manufactured in the minds of their journalists when he should be focusing on leading another assault against crime?
The Get Gary Agenda is not over
Everything the Express has done is so offensive that it is utterly surprising that the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago has not come out in total condemnation against one of their own for the pain it has brought to the Skeete family.
And for the manner in which it attempted to bring the character of not just Gary Griffith but that of the Office of the Police Commissioner into disrepute.
But it seems as though the “Get Gary Agenda” is not over because, on the front page of the Trinidad Express of November 11, 2019, their headline story once again is an attack on the Office of the Commissioner of Police.
This time the story is headlined “OCM Chairman calls on Police Commissioner to cease attacks on journalists: STOP IT GARY”
This is so oxymoronic because it is not Gary who launched a scathing assault on journalists. It is the Express who fabricated a lie.
Is this again another Fake Story published by the Trinidad Express and by Sunday are we going to read another story this time in the Trinidad Guardian coming from the OCM Chairman claiming he never said so?
When will the attack on the Commissioner stop?
When will this war be over?
When will we as decent law-abiding citizens understand that together we must join forces with our Commissioner if we are to win this war against crime?
The Trinidad Express owes the Commissioner of Police an open apology which should be given the same space and significance as Renne’s lies and an investigation in whose pocket Renne and Omatie Lyder as an editor may be.
No one takes the risk to create such uncertainty unless they are duly paid to indemnify any loss they may suffer.
This may just be a payback to a master. No one really knows. But to regain their credibility once again the Express must treat with Renne and Lyder to save itself from being known as the Fake News Media.