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Two journalists accused of working with opposition harassed

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an RSF letter to Prime Minister Keith Mitchell:

Dr. Keith Mitchell
Prime Minister of Grenada
Ministerial Complex
Botanical Gardens
Tanteen, St George's

Dear Mr Prime Minister:

Reporters Without Borders is alarmed to learn that freelance journalists Rawle Titus and Linda Straker (who is also the regional correspondent for Reporters Without Borders) are being accused of working with the opposition and that anonymous leaflets attacking them appeared in the streets of St George's on 14 April.

The leaflets showed pictures of the two journalists along with those of three leaders of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the main opposition to your New National Party (NNP).

In cartoon-style, they show the two journalists addressing a policeman (suspected of spying on NDC leaders) who held a press conference on 9 April at which he was asked tough questions by journalists, including Straker and Titus.

In the leaflets, Straker and Titus are shown asking imaginary questions. Straker says: "Officer, the NDC pays me to ask you stupid questions so you better answer me or else." Titus is saying: "If we the NDC get into office, the police don't have any say, so you better answer my questions now or else." The three politicians are shown making remarks about an alleged assault on the policeman by NDC supporters.

These unfounded attacks directly question the professional honesty of the two journalists and could put them in physical danger, especially in the upcoming election campaign. The accusations against them go beyond the personal and undermine one of the main principles of the rule of law: freedom of information. The job of journalists everywhere is to ask questions so as to keep the public informed. Governments and civil servants, who answer to the public, must be the first to submit themselves to unrestricted public scrutiny.

We approach you not just as prime minister and information minister (and thus regulator and guarantor of press freedom) but also as NNP political leader. Though these defamatory leaflets are anonymous, we have reason to believe they have been produced by activists of your party.

We know the courts will deal with Straker's legal complaint against the leaflet's authors but in the meantime we ask you to make every effort to ensure that further attempts to intimidate journalists are not made. The job of journalists is much more important in an election year since the media enables the public to assess party programmes and make a free choice.

We trust you will give this matter your best attention.

Respectfully,

Robert Ménard
Secretary-General

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