TATT: Radio talk show statements on judge ‘divisive and inciteful’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad – File Photo

STATEMENTS made by a radio talk-show host about a High Court judge in January were “divisive and inciteful” and negatively portrayed or degraded the judge and the Judiciary, the Telecommunications Authority of TT (TATT) has advised.

TATT chief executive officer Cynthia Reddock-Downes wrote to Justice Frank Seepersad on May 8 on the authority’s findings to a complaint he made of the Juju Love programme broadcast on Trinibashment Ltd’s 91.9 FM on January 30, 2024.

Reddock-Downes also advised that TATT wrote to the radio station and told of the findings and that it had breached a condition of its concession by “allowing statements to be made about the judge and/or the Judiciary that can place the Judiciary into disrepute.

“They were further informed that such a breach and any other breaches will be considered in the upcoming renewal of their concession,” Reddock-Downes said.

A day after the statements were made, Seepersad wrote to the Law Association about the broadcast, which stemmed from Seepersad’s delivery of the libel judgment in favour of businessman Inshan Ishmael against veteran calypsonian Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins.

In his letter, which Newsday has seen, Seepersad expressed concern that the statements made by the host and callers brought the administration of justice into disrepute.

“There is an obligation to protect the integrity of the Judiciary and by extension the administration of justice,” the judge reminded LATT.

He also expressed his concerns to Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC.

“Having carefully reviewed the broadcast, I am concerned that the editorial which the host delivered and the comments which were made throughout the broadcast may have impugned the integrity of the court and brought the Judiciary into disrepute.

“The comments appear to exceed the ambit of fair commentary and/or reasonable journalism and the intent may have been to scandalise the court,” Seepersad said in his letter, which called for a decision to be made in defence of the administration of justice.

“The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago and the Attorney General both have an obligation to protect and preserve public confidence in the administration of justice and ill-advised attempts to scandalise the court should be swiftly addressed.”

In addition to his complaint to TATT and his correspondence to LATT and the AG, the judge sought protection from the Commissioner of Police.

“My security concerns are now heightened and I hold the view that I may be a hate crime target,” he said in a letter dated February 1.

“During the program, I was ridiculed and called a racist and numerous callers expressed very strong and hateful views primarily premised upon my ethnicity,” he said.

He further noted an emailed death threat he received in connection with the OAS arbitration matter made in December 2023 and his presiding over the EMBD cartel claim lawsuit against a former government minister and several contractors.

“I hold the view that my conduct of this EMBD case may also be weaponised.”

In June 2020, a brass-coloured 9mm round of ammunition was also sent to Seepersad in the mail with a note.

Seepersad noted his police protection, which had been in place since December 2017, was withdrawn in June 2023 after he was told the threat level was low.

The latter, he described as “strange” since, he said in his letter, he received communication from the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the police service that a source of the email and person of interest had been identified, however, the name used to create the account was fabricated and the Sim card was never reused, the investigation revealed.

“As a consequence, it is possible to conclude that there was a well-thought-out plan to threaten me and attempt to pervert the course of justice and the responsible individual(s) is/are still at large.

“…Given the ongoing personal attack to which I’m now subjected, I am fearful that my security is definitely at risk and I feel exposed, vulnerable and unsafe.”

In that letter, he reported a threat. The judge made a police report of a man of African descent threatening him saying, “Dat is d stink coolie judge. Only pressing black people. I sorry I have to use my rounds or I wudda done yuh today.

“Please be advised that I am taking the unusual step of copying this letter to the honourable Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and my attorney, who has been instructed to release this letter to the public if my request for protection is rejected and I become a crime statistic,” he said.

He also wrote to National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds for a review of his security. Since the reduction in his security detail, the judge has had to supplement his security for himself and his family by hiring private guards at $25,000 monthly.