What is a MATT?

One of the status updates that fuelled the public's response to claims of government interference at Guardian Media Limited.

One of the status updates that fuelled the public’s response to claims of government interference at Guardian Media Limited.

Editor in Chief Judy Raymond...giving it another try.

Editor in Chief Judy Raymond…giving it another try.

Today is the internal elections for the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, the same organisation that was commandeered by Sheppard, Raymond, Hawkins, Mathur, Dowrich, Baldeosingh et al (i forgetting somebody in there I’m sure) months ago into telling the one version of GuardianGate.

Since Walkout Wednesday, as Sheila Rampersad has referred to it in news reports, the entire board has resigned. When you listen to the comments from members of the board, no clear picture emerges about what really went down that week. Sheppard, as then President of the organisation, has accepted full responsibility for what went down….but responsibility isn’t the same thing as transparency and accountability. And I am afraid as a member of the public, who has to rely on the media to get it right, MATT’s previous board is still very much in the wrong.

To the best of my knowledge to date there has been no explanation about who exactly took the decisions and gave the ok for those releases to have been sent out. Word is Ms Sheppard was on vacation leave when this entire thing began…so who called her into office? And when she “wrote” the press releases, or instructed someone to write the releases – see, we still don’t know for certain who wrote the relaases..everything is hinted at and alluded to – was she writing it with her Guardian employee cap on or her MATT cap?

If it was the MATT cap (which is what it should have been), who was she getting her info from, and what cause exactly was she lobbying for? You see, at the height of the scandal that week the impression the entire country…in fact region…had was that press freedom was under threat. And the public didn’t make the story up…it was brought to them via MATT press releases.

I have had several arguments with Guardian personnel about this issue, because I felt the then MATT board was extremely dishonest and disingenuous with the public and very irresponsible. The Board was quick to give us a particular side of a very salacious story…but not so quick at clearing up and ending the speculation.

Board members took a decision to run with a story, and then a day or two later the entire story they ran with and delivered to the public as factual was shot down as being false and misrepresenting the truth….and in all of it, the key players at the Guardian all happen to be MATT Board members…..from captain to cook!

In a serious country, with a serious media, the outgoing MATT Board would have had to submit a report upon leaving office. Instead, when questioned, Judy Raymond, at the heart of the shit-storm that was walk out Wednesday, directs queries to an editorial she wrote that answers none of the really salient questions about MATT’s role in the entire fiasco.

And for me that is my bone of contention. It is obvious to anyone who looked on that MATT, in the hands of Guardian Media Limited personnel, was used as a tool to tell one side of a story. Then when the shit began to swirl too thick and too fast, it was just as quickly discarded and the MATT Board hoped we would forget it was also made up primarily of Guardian reporters and editors.

The question that again begged itself at the end of this fiasco is, What is MATT?

Sometime in 2011, when the issue with Ian Alleyne using live footage of a rape occurred, I had asked Ms Raymond what was MATT.
You see, it isn’t a union, because it cannot assist with wage negotiations, or even improving conditions at a media house. It isn’t quite a watchdog group either, because it picks and chooses the media issues it speaks out on in random ways.

What I have been told is that MATT is an organisation of media workers; it doesn’t have a lawyer; it runs workshops for its members; it attempts to protect press freedom.

The new MATT board that is hopefully going to be voted in today has to work on defining itself. Having a clear vision and mission; properly articulated for itself and the public. It needs to establish a code of ethics for its members and a code of conduct as well. While I know individual media houses determine the standard of the stories they publish, MATT should seek to become a body that is similar to the Law Association and Medical Practitioner’s Association in terms of safeguarding its profession.

Because from where I stand, one of the prominent threats to a free and independent press at this moment are the employees themselves.

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The MATT Who Cried Wolf

Editor in Chief Judy Raymond...giving it another try.

Editor in Chief Judy Raymond…giving it another try.

Soooooo…all that fuss at GuardianGate….you know….about Government interference at the newspaper? And about Managing Directors and editors being fired and then reinstated and there being an impasse in the newsroom and reporters walking off the job etc etc…..it was a hoax.

Yes folks, we’re being told today by Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, whose President is Suzanne Sheppard and Vice President is Judy Raymond….that ALLLLLL those press releases they sent out earlier in the week to keep us abreast of the situation in the Guardian newsroom….well they were mistaken.

So MATT, once again, is a tool, being absolutely abused by its executive. Nothing to see here folks…move along.

Take a read:

The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) seeks to correct previous erroneous information released specifically about the alleged resignation of the Managing Director of Guardian Media Gabriel Faria.
Further investigation into the matter has revealed that Managing Director Gabriel Faria and Sector Head David Inglefield have not resigned as previously reported by MATT. 
The impasse between the publishers of the Trinidad and Sunday Guardian newspapers and senior journalists has been reportedly resolved following discussions between the two parties. Apart from the resignation of Public Affairs Editor Dr Sheila Rampersad, the newsroom is now functioning as before with Judy Raymond as Editor in Chief. Investigative reporters Anika Gumbs and Denyse Renne, who were initially reported as having resigned, are on the job.
Managing Director Gabriel Faria and Sector Head David Inglefield have not resigned as previously reported
President of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) Suzanne Sheppard, who is the Business News Editor at the Trinidad Guardian, described the events of the last 24 hours which led to speculation of political pressure on journalists at the daily newspaper as case of a “massive miscommunication” between the publishers and journalists.
Sheppard said she is convinced, following discussions with senior executives, that the events of the past few days when Judy Raymond was asked to go temporarily “off-line” to review editorial standards in the newsroom had “nothing to do with political intervention”.
Sheppard said freedom of press issues were raised only due to an unfortunate combination of events that will be revealed in a press conference on Monday. 
Saturday 13th July 8.00am

And while you pick your jaw up off the floor…and realise that the MATT who cried wolf really just saw a canary….keep in mind these cryptic words from Judy Raymond, Guardian’s EIC last evening..”Don’t believe everything you read…”

Full Dotish….Full Dotisher….And More Full Dotish!

Slap in the Face…

One of the status updates that fuelled the public's response to claims of government interference at Guardian Media Limited.

One of the status updates that fuelled the public’s response to claims of government interference at Guardian Media Limited.

Editor in Chief Judy Raymond...giving it another try.

Editor in Chief Judy Raymond…giving it another try.

If YOU were the Editor in Chief of a newspaper whose motto was “The Guardian of Democracy” and it was reported by members of your staff and the media association you belong to that there was evidence of government interference at your newspaper…..would that be grounds to resign?

And if that isn’t grounds for resigning, what would be?

Today Trinbagonians pretty pissed off with the Guardian newspaper….why? Because they feel they have been taken for a ride by the company’s Board and its Editor in Chief. They feel they have been pissed on from a great height and slapped in the face by the antics of the board and the editorial team at the newspaper.

They are also coming to terms with the bald truth that the newspaper isn’t about good independent journalism, so much as it is obsessed with its bottom line….and no amount of soft soaping from the Editor in Chief, or even from her Business News Editor, Suzanne Shepherd is going to make the reading public feel good anytime soon.

In fact, both yesterday and today you had a Guardian whose content was very much toned down. No stories about government malfeasance or any other kind of misbehaviour at all in its pages. It would be easy to mistake The Guardian’s political stories for the Ministry of Communications’ FaceBook page now.

In the meantime, Denyse Renne and Anicka Gumbs-Sandiford who have been doing a fairly reliable job of unearthing and revealing government misbehaviour are resigned…and I can only offer a pray that the Express grabs them up so that their investigative skills aren’t wasted and the public can have some level of consolation over this absolute fiasco.

There is a lot I could say about the actions or in-action of Ms Raymond and Ms Shepherd. There is talk that this is being done for the sake of the staff. Some members of staff that I have spoken to scoff loudly at that notion.

But what I will say is this…you have severely disappointed the public. You have been less than forthcoming with them about the true details of this fiasco and you have led them on. You owe the population an explanation. And if you have been guilty of poor information dissemination….an apology and your resignations from MATT’s board. Because nobody going to take MATT seriously after this debacle with the two of you serving as President and Vice President. Can you really continue to represent the interests of journalists after this?

Suzanne Shepherd, on Wednesday 10th at 1:42 pm posted this: The most vile attack imaginable on freedom of the press now in progress and I am in the midst of it.

The public didn’t imagine this crisis…they didn’t fuel it themselves….they didn’t ask for it.

As President and Vice President of MATT both of you have a huge responsibility here for the information fed to the Trinbagonian public, the region and the world.

No one is going to forget your behaviour this week, or what it means for our confidence in media and press freedom.

In the meantime, I will get my news from Jamal Mohammed…at least I know his propaganda is solid and undiluted.

Democratic institutions crumbling around us at Full Dotish Speeds!!!

Clusterf@$k Flashback: The People’s Panchayat and the Media….Tobago Love?


PM Persad-Bissessar caught between Min Roodal Moonilal and photographer Curtis Chase at a govt sponsored media event. Photo courtesy Trinidad Express website.

Everybody know what Tobago Love is….you know it…is a love/hate relationship…..plenty cuff and kick throwing, but still it have affection in there.
Well it seems the love between the People’s Panchayat and the national Media between 2010 and now has gone sour….good good cow milk make dahee, just so!

Let’s look at the time line.

May 2010: Minutes after her swearing in the PM is making sure journalists are comfortable….not squashed. She welcomes media scrutiny she says. http://www.newsday.co.tt/politics/0,121474.html

Dec 2010: At a government sponsored media event the love was still strong and the PM announced that it was media’s duty to keep the govt in check. http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Kamla__Media_must_keep_Govt_in_check-112696524.html

June 2011: Minister of Insecurity Capt. Gallery Griffith accuses the Media of putting the PM’s life at risk (assassination plotgate, anyone?). http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Griffith__Media_putting_Kamla_s_life_at_risk-124242219.html

October 2011: It becomes obvious that the govt is advertising only with media houses that are willing to toe the party line. http://www.tntmirror.com/2011/10/21/kamlas-hypocrisy

Dec 2011: The TnT Mirror along with several other media houses seemed to be getting short shrift from the govt. http://www.tntmirror.com/2011/12/09/kamla-blanks-mirror-again

Dec 2011: Police raid TV6 compound in a startling show of force, 25 officers to seize 1 tape. http://www.guardian.co.tt/police-seize-crime-watch-video-tv6-premises

http://www.trinidadexpress.com/letters/Why_all_those_armed_cops_at_TV6_-136463843.html

Jan – Feb 2012: A new thrust becomes apparent. The police begins raiding media houses and the government claims ignorance and concern over these issues. No one in the government in aware of the raids and why they are taking place.   http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Cops_want_interviews_with_CCN_directors-139065299.html

http://caribflyer.com/carib/newsday-raid-shocks-ag/

Feb 2012: Newsday raided and journalist Andre Bagoo’s computer hard drive and cellphones are confiscated. His home is also raided and his laptop confiscated as well. It is believed that Justice Gladys Gafoor, deputy chairperson of the Integrity Commission has leaked info to Bagoo and the police are searching for his source. Mr Bagoo refuses to reveal his source.
Interestingly enough the announcement of Ms Gafoor’s dismissal and information on the raids came from the Ministry of Foreign  Affairs and Communications, and not the President’s office….yet the Govt is denying any knowledge of the raid on Newsday! 

http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,155134.html

http://jyoticommunication.blogspot.com/2012/02/gibbs-must-explain-raid-at-newsday.html

http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/GAFOOR_CAUGHT_OFF_GUARD-139065309.html

http://www.newsday.co.tt/editorial/0,155175.html