By Daniel Guerra
A top government official in Trinidad and Tobago has ordered police to withhold crime statistics from the public and media, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday, Oct. 10.
According to Trinidad Express Newspapers, Jack Warner, the country’s national security minister and member of the ruling United National Congress (UNC), says the ruling is an attempt to take away the political opposition’s ”desire to create mischief where none existed.”
Warner said the measure will go into “immediate effect” and the lack of information will help reduce the country’s crime rate.
The decision comes after the Oct. 9 murder of a man shot near the capital of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. In a CNC3 video, Warner blamed the murder on the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) party for what he said was a lack of political cooperation in fighting crime in the country, a claim Warner later apologized for.
Following his initial statement, Warner told reporters the “intent of this measure is to seek to ensure that crime statistics are not sensationalized” and that those statistics “do not cause an escalation of crime.”
The country’s Police Service Commission held an emergency hearing following Warner’s announcement, and PNM leader Keith Rowley criticized Warner's statements and called for his resignation.
Wesley Gibbings, president of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas that the minister is committing a mistake, considering his country’s laws.
“There is a view in many Caribbean countries that official information is the private property of political administrations. This is despite the existence of modern Freedom of Information laws, on which question Trinidad and Tobago was a regional forerunner,” Gibbings said. “The minister is badly mistaken about the limits of his power and both the spirit and letter of a law he is sworn to uphold.”
Warner has also received criticism recently for his attempts to discredit two journalists for their reporting on money laundering charges of two prominent UNC donors.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.