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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Police storm television station in Trinidad and Tobago to seize video of sexual assault




More than 20 armed police officers searched the offices of a private television station in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago on Jan. 1, according to the International Press Institute (IPI).

Press in the Caribbean country reported that police raided the offices of Caribbean Communications Network Television 6 (CCN) as part of a search warrant to find a video that supposedly contained footage of an alleged sexual assault on a mentally-disabled 13-year-old girl, according to the newspaper Newsday. Authorities opened an investigation into the television channel to see if the broadcaster violated sexual assault laws by showing images of the attack in October 2011, on reporter Ian Alleyne's show Crime Watch. Alleyne later apologized for airing the footage and the station temporarily suspended him, reported the Guardian.

The station's general manager, Shida Bolai, told the newspaper Trinidad Express that the broadcaster had cooperated with the police in the investigation, and considered the search a troubling show of unnecessary use of force.

"We are very disappointed that authorities decided to send... armed officers to CCN's offices to look for a single videotape they could have obtained by asking," said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. "Such actions inevitably have a chilling effect on media freedom and we urge the Government to take steps to make sure that disproportionate shows of force like this don't become a habit."

After the raid, Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson said he was shocked by the number of police officers who stormed the television station to enforce the search warrant but denied that the police's actions were an attack on the press, according to the radio station WACK 90.1 FM.



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