Today is the internal elections for the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, the same organisation that was commandeered by Sheppard, Raymond, Hawkins, Mathur, Dowrich, Baldeosingh et al (i forgetting somebody in there I'm sure) months ago into telling the one version of GuardianGate.
Since Walkout Wednesday, as Sheila Rampersad has referred to it in news reports, the entire board has resigned. When you listen to the comments from members of the board, no clear picture emerges about what really went down that week. Sheppard, as then President of the organisation, has accepted full responsibility for what went down....but responsibility isn't the same thing as transparency and accountability. And I am afraid as a member of the public, who has to rely on the media to get it right, MATT's previous board is still very much in the wrong.
To the best of my knowledge to date there has been no explanation about who exactly took the decisions and gave the ok for those releases to have been sent out. Word is Ms Sheppard was on vacation leave when this entire thing began...so who called her into office? And when she "wrote" the press releases, or instructed someone to write the releases - see, we still don't know for certain who wrote the relaases..everything is hinted at and alluded to - was she writing it with her Guardian employee cap on or her MATT cap?
If it was the MATT cap (which is what it should have been), who was she getting her info from, and what cause exactly was she lobbying for? You see, at the height of the scandal that week the impression the entire country...in fact region...had was that press freedom was under threat. And the public didn't make the story up...it was brought to them via MATT press releases.
I have had several arguments with Guardian personnel about this issue, because I felt the then MATT board was extremely dishonest and disingenuous with the public and very irresponsible. The Board was quick to give us a particular side of a very salacious story...but not so quick at clearing up and ending the speculation.
Board members took a decision to run with a story, and then a day or two later the entire story they ran with and delivered to the public as factual was shot down as being false and misrepresenting the truth....and in all of it, the key players at the Guardian all happen to be MATT Board members.....from captain to cook!
In a serious country, with a serious media, the outgoing MATT Board would have had to submit a report upon leaving office. Instead, when questioned, Judy Raymond, at the heart of the shit-storm that was walk out Wednesday, directs queries to an editorial she wrote that answers none of the really salient questions about MATT's role in the entire fiasco.
And for me that is my bone of contention. It is obvious to anyone who looked on that MATT, in the hands of Guardian Media Limited personnel, was used as a tool to tell one side of a story. Then when the shit began to swirl too thick and too fast, it was just as quickly discarded and the MATT Board hoped we would forget it was also made up primarily of Guardian reporters and editors.
The question that again begged itself at the end of this fiasco is, What is MATT?
Sometime in 2011, when the issue with Ian Alleyne using live footage of a rape occurred, I had asked Ms Raymond what was MATT. You see, it isn't a union, because it cannot assist with wage negotiations, or even improving conditions at a media house. It isn't quite a watchdog group either, because it picks and chooses the media issues it speaks out on in random ways.
What I have been told is that MATT is an organisation of media workers; it doesn't have a lawyer; it runs workshops for its members; it attempts to protect press freedom.
The new MATT board that is hopefully going to be voted in today has to work on defining itself. Having a clear vision and mission; properly articulated for itself and the public. It needs to establish a code of ethics for its members and a code of conduct as well. While I know individual media houses determine the standard of the stories they publish, MATT should seek to become a body that is similar to the Law Association and Medical Practitioner's Association in terms of safeguarding its profession.
Because from where I stand, one of the prominent threats to a free and independent press at this moment are the employees themselves.