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A call for a more curious media

Saturday, June 9, 2018

It seems only in Trinidad and Tobago are controversial multi-national corporations such as Shell and Huawei embraced and, to some extent, even courted.

In April this year, the Prime Minister met with top executives of Royal Dutch Shell – a company currently embroiled in a billion-dollar corruption scandal in Nigeria which has implicated top company executives and the country’s former President Goodluck Jonathan. News reports reprinted the press release from the Office of the Prime Minister almost word for word with no indication of what fruit those talks produced, what promises were made and which plans were to be undertaken, assuming of course that these discussions were more than talk shops.

This week, the Ministry of National Security, via ambiguous notices on their Facebook page, has indicated that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei would “do an assessment of Trinidad and Tobago’s National Fusion Centre” and that “it is envisaged that National Security would increase its utilisation of technology in the fight against crime.”

Not only have the media failed to unravel this ministry-sanctioned gobbledygook to explain what precisely this “assessment” will involve, but they have also neglected to treat this event with the scepticism which responsible journalism demands.

Huawei has been in the international news recently in connection with its access to Facebook’s user-data, including information on users, their friends, work and education history, relationship status and likes. It has been widely reported that the company has been flagged by American intelligence officials as a national security threat, as heads of the major US intelligence agencies such as the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency have voiced “deep concerns” over what they regard as potential security risks from companies “beholden to foreign governments.”

While this collaboration between the ministry and Huawei may be innocuous official dialogue, citizens must know what precisely is the nature of this partnership and how will it impact on crime fighting and the lives of citizens? These are basic questions which any agent working on behalf of public interest should ask. However, citizens continue to be fed a diet of recycled press releases disguised as journalism.

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