Investigative journalist returns to Trinidad despite death threats
In exclusive interview, Mark Bassant says he intends to continue his work
VIENNA, July 23, 2014 – Investigative journalist Mark Bassant of Trinidad and Tobago has returned to his country despite the continued existence of a threat against his life, he told the International Press Institute (IPI) this week in an exclusive interview.
Bassant said he made the tough decision to leave his country in May after he received a number of confirmed threats. Although the case is still being investigated, he said, he made the even-tougher decision to return home and continue to expose issues of public interest, such as alleged corruption within government agencies and criminal activities taking place in the twin-island nation.
A senior reporter for the Caribbean Communications Network, Channel 6 (CCN TV6), Bassant said he decided to return to Trinidad early this month, despite the fact that his life may still be in danger.
“I decided to come to Trinidad because I did not want them to win,” he told IPI. “I wanted to take back my life and do what I do best for the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.”
On May 22, Bassant released a video through his television network stating that he had received a call earlier that month from what he called “a very reliable underworld source” advising that criminal entities wanted to harm him.
Later in the week following the initial threat, Bassant said, he met with another source who confirmed face-to-face that a €2,000-hit had been ordered against him. Bassant reported the threat to a member of the national security services, who reportedly confirmed that the threat was imminent and advised him to arrange around-the-clock security.
IPI reported in late May that Bassant had decided to leave Trinidad in order to ensure his safety.
Addressing the threats against him earlier in the year, Bassant said that “the investigation is still ongoing”. He also said that, as of yesterday, he had not received further updates from authorities on any possible leads into his case.
Bassant did confirm that he has not received any additional threats since his return, but he said that he remains vigilant.
“I remain kind of guarded,” he told IPI in a phone interview. “But I have security with me at all times. Some of the things I am working on, I have to be very cautious.”
Bassant explained that he has not been able to return to his previous home, as he had to move to a more-secure compound in Trinidad. He also mentioned that he is not driving his own vehicle.
IPI Press Freedom Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean Vanessa I. Garnica called on authorities to continue pursuing the investigation.
“We urge authorities in Trinidad and Tobago to fully investigate the threats made against Mr. Bassant and to bring the perpetrators to justice in order to ensure a safe environment for members of the press attempting to expose information that may be of public interest,” she said.
For more information, contact:
Vanessa I. Garnica, press freedom adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean, at +43 1512 9011 or vgarnica[@]freemedia.at