Trinidadian authorities should protect threatened journalist

New York, May 29, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Trinidadian authorities to ensure the safety of a local journalist who fled the country after learning of a plot against his life. 

Mark Bassant, a senior investigative reporter with Caribbean Communication Network (CCN) TV, was investigating the May 3 murder of Dana Seetahal, a prominent attorney and former senator who was involved in several high-profile prosecutions, as well as links between Islamic groups and criminal activities.

Bassant told CPJ that several sources told him on May 7 that criminal figures were angered by his reporting and that his life was at risk. Bassant said he reported this information that day to the authorities, including the minister of national security, Gary Griffith.

On May 8, Bassant met with an official with the Trinidadian intelligence service, who advised him to take precautions for his safety but did not offer any security, the journalist told CPJ. CCN began providing him with around-the-clock security. The journalist said his sources told him the same day that rogue police officers were monitoring him and reporting back to the person who wanted him killed.

Bassant told CPJ that on May 9 officials with Trinidad’s intelligence service told him they had confirmed that his name was on a list of people to be killed and that he was at imminent risk. Bassant fled the country on May 11. Bassant told CPJ the intelligence officials were in contact with him and were monitoring the case. 

“Journalists should never have to flee their country in order to keep safe,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We hold the Trinidadian authorities responsible for Mark Bassant’s well-being and call on them to investigate this plot, including possible police involvement, quickly and thoroughly.”

In a May 21 broadcast on CCN, Dominic Kallipersad, head of news at the station, cited Griffith and Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams as saying they were aware of the matter and had launched an investigation.

Griffith told CPJ today that he could not comment about the ongoing investigation or what security measures authorities had taken to ensure Bassant’s safety.