Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 21st 2013 Contents A10
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, June 21, 2013
President of the Media Association of T&T Suzanne
Sheppard said yesterday she was not surprised by T&T s
ranking on the World Press Freedom Index.
The 2013 edition of the index, which is compiled by
international NGO Reporters Without Borders, ranks T&T
44 out of 179 countries. The index is published annually
and measures the degree of freedom media workers are
afforded in each country.
On the 2011-2012 index, T&T dropped 20 places---
from 30th to 50th---owing to reports of the Government
spying on journalists. This year s report said: "T&T still
has not stopped its illegal monitoring of journalists phone
calls and attempts to identify their sources, although it
promised to stop in 2010."
Sheppard added: "The issues that have confronted
T&T media in the last year and more have been well-
documented. In spite of promises and com-
mitments made, the day-to-day experience
doesn t suggest that we ve made any real
progress in the area of press freedom.
"Our low ranking on this index should be a
motivating factor for all of us to do better. All
of the stakeholders need to ensure that conditions
are created and maintained for a free and vibrant
press in T&T. We have all the building blocks.
We just need the political and social will to
make it a reality."
Sheppard said the situation would hopefully
change once the Government lived up to its
promises, such as enacting legislation to end
In May, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar announced the Government would work
on amending the Libel and Defamation Act to
prevent journalists from being charged with
criminal libel. The announcement came after
a meeting with the International Press Institute
(IPI), the Association of Caribbean Media Work-
ers and the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters
In 2012, the IPI launched a campaign urging
Caribbean governments to abolish criminal
Sheppard said the Government had begun
to pay more attention to campaigns such as
"The IPI campaign for the abolition of crim-
inal libel is what has led to the promise of leg-
islation for reform. I think just the activity,
just keeping it on the front burner, has done
a lot and that is what these surveys and studies
are supposed to do," she added.
Not surprised by T&T's press freedom index
'Unity lacking in
Labour consultant Robert Giussepi and former pres-
ident of the National Union of Government and Federated
Workers (NUGFW) says he does not see any unity among
trade unions as some of them plan for the mass march
on July 5 against the Government.
"It does not seem that the Joint Trade Union Movement
(JTUM) represents a common national voice in this country.
I am not seeing evidence of this," he told the T&T Guardian
He was referring to the announcement on Labour Day
by Ancel Roget, president, Oilfields Workers Trade Union
(OWTU) and head of the Joint Trade Union Movement
(JTUM) they would hold a March on July 5 to the Office
of the Prime Minister to address issues of the Workers
The Workers Agenda came out of a national Conference
of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers (COSSABO) in 2010
at OWTU s offices and took a position on various issues
affecting the working class.
Some of the issues that Roget said the Government was
guilty of political victimisation, nepotism, mismanagement
of the economy and failure to reform archaic labour laws.
Speaking from an "independent position," Giussepi said
trade unionists were entering politics to deal with national
issues but they could not even show any signs of unity
on Labour Day and called the march a "poor showing."
"I did not see any strong showing from the National
Trade Union Centre (Natuc) on Labour Day. Where were
Natuc s leaders? I also saw about two or three different
Public Services Association (PSA) groups. There is a certain
group of union leaders trying to move forward but there
is no unity," he said.
Giussepi said some labour leaders seemed to be out of
touch with what was happening around them.
"In this country there are 300,000 workers who are
not represented by unions, compared to over 100,000
who are organised. These are the people you need to show
you support if you want to deal with national issues," he
Responding to criticisms from some sectors that trade
unions were becoming too political, he said unions were
free to enter active politics if they wished.
"This is a democracy and people are free to do what
they want. If a sector of the union movement think that
it is necessary to have a political voice then it is their
choice but they must understand that unity is important,"
Gerry Kangalee, education officer, National Workers
Union (NWU), said the union would support any position
by the trade union movement that would further the cause
of trade unions.
"We will support any protest or manifestation that
advances the cause of workers in the country," he added.
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