PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Thursday May 22, 2014, CMC – A senior investigative journalist with the Caribbean Communication Network (CCN) TV6, Mark Bassant, has been forced to flee the country after receiving a number of death threats, head of news at the television station, Dominic Kallipersad has said.
Kallipersad told television viewers on Wednesday night that Bassant had received the threats while working on sensitive investigative material and that both National Security Minister Gary Griffith and Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams had been made aware of the hit placed on the journalist.
The Trinidad Express newspaper, a sister company of the television station, reported Thursday that “key underworld criminals” had made the death threat against Bassant.
Bassant told the newspaper that on May 7, “I got a call from a very reliable underworld source that certain criminal elements wanted to harm me because of stories I wrote recently that were showing them up.
“I made a report on it. The next day I was liaising with certain police officers involved in a specific investigation, only to later learn from other trusted sources that these same officers who I had spoken to earlier were leaking information about me and what I knew to the said individuals who organised for my demise.
“I informed a high-ranking intelligence source along with another trusted senior intelligence officer about this development,” Bassant said.
“The senior intelligence office later conferred to me in a face-to-face meeting on May 9 that my name was on a hit list together with other persons. In fact, he told me that they had already been given the order to engage the targets, including me, and that the hit against me was starting at TT$20,000 (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents),” Bassant explained.
The Trinidad Express newspaper said that the intelligence source then advised Bassant to take certain precautionary measures, including having 24-hour security available to him.
“Bassant then advised management at CCN about the developments and they worked together to have Bassant stay at various locations as an insurance for his safety,” the paper reported.
Bassant said “this entire situation has me angry that journalists, who work on behalf of the people, can be threatened like this.
“And based on the calibre of people involved, in my opinion it is also a frightening indictment on our law-enforcement agency in this country.
“But despite all this, I remain passionate to the cause of uncovering all wrongdoings in this country. I can only wait and see what becomes of this situation because it has a direct bearing on all investigative journalists, not only in this country, but around the world,” Bassant said.