Journalists may be held in contempt of court over reporting of the matter
BY JUHEL BROWNE
Any media house that publishes or broadcasts any articles or programmes on the existing allegations that Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma attempted to abuse his authority may be in contempt of court, says Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Carla Brown-Antoine.
She made the declaration yesterday in a press release from the office of the DPP, which bore her signature, noting that the issue was very sensitive in light of the ongoing police investigation into the matter.
Brown-Antoine is now dealing with the matter after DPP Geoffrey Henderson, in a release on Friday, said he has delegated his functions regarding the matter to his assistant.
The decision may have come since Henderson, too, was accused of involvement in the matter.
Brown-Antoine’s press release also comes about two weeks after the media first began reporting on the allegations against Sharma and his counter-allegations against Chief Magistrate Sherma McNicolls and Attorney General John Jeremie.
“The media is advised that it may be a contempt of court to publish material which causes a real risk of prejudice to the due administration of justice, even if the publication does not relate to pending proceedings,” Brown-Antoine said yesterday.
“The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions highly deprecates the practise of publishing material which can be described as sensational, inaccurate or misleading.”
Brown-Antoine noted the DPP’s office is particularly concerned about the publication of purported extracts of statements which are alleged to form part of an ongoing investigation being conducted by Assistant Commissioner of Police Wellington Virgil.
Just this weekend, two newspapers published articles which were based on a statement given to the police by the lead prosecutor in the Basdeo Panday trial, Timothy Cassel, QC.
The newspapers reported that Cassel claimed to have a conversation with Sharma on the Panday trial while on a BWIA flight on January 5.
“While it is recognised that the media has a right to report on matters of constitutional importance, this right must be balanced against the right to a course of justice which is unpolluted,” Brown-Antoine said.
“We urge all members of the media and the public at large to treat this matter with responsibility and discretion.”
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