T&T Guardian photographer assaulted by cop, other

(Trinidad Guardian) Two men, including a senior police officer, yesterday assaulted a Guardian Media photographer while he was on official duty in Penal. Kristian De Silva was covering the fake oil fiasco and seeking an interview with the owner of A&V Oil and Gas, Nazim Baksh, in the southern part of the island at the time of the incident.

De Silva suffered injuries to his face after being cuffed several times by the men while at Nazim Avenue, San Francique Road, Penal, in front of the A&V Gas & Oil premises.

Around 2.30 pm, De Silva was standing on the road taking photos of the expansive compound when a black Toyota Hilux drove towards him in an attempt to run him over. De Silva stepped back to avoid the oncoming vehicle, only to see the vehicle coming toward him again. The driver then stopped, jumped out and accosted De Silva in an aggressive manner.

De Silva’s glasses fell to the ground and he identified himself as a Guardian Media photographer in an attempt to prevent the attacker from assaulting him further. However, the man, who was also shouting obscenities, began cuffing De Silva about his face, telling him he was on private property.

A second man who came in a second vehicle then hit De Silva on the side of his neck. This second individual was later identified by senior officers at the Penal Police Station as being a police officer.

At this point, De Silva’s colleague, news reporter Sascha Wilson, who was seated in De Silva’s vehicle a short distance away when the attack started, heard the commotion and on realising what was happening went to his assistance.

The second attacker then took up De Silva’s camera from the ground, where he had put it after he was first accosted, and walked towards Wilson and repeated that they were on private property.

When Wilson told him to hand over the camera, the man smashed it against a nearby security booth, which resulted in the camera shattering. Both men continued threatening and cursing the journalists. One of them then stamped on De Silva’s glasses before returning to the Hilux.

A security officer and another man who was painting a wall witnessed the attack, but they were warned by the assailants not to say anything. De Silva subsequently sought medical attention at the Siparia Health Facility and obtained a medical.

While De Silva and Wilson were filing their reports at the Penal Police Station last evening, the second man who assaulted De Silva arrived and began talking loudly, but did not interfere with the two.

Speaking about the incident, De Silva admitted to being severely traumatised. He said he could not understand why the men attacked him in the first place and especially after he identified himself as a member of the media.

“While everything was happening I said sir I’m from the Guardian newspaper and he said F the media, I don’t care who you are, you’re on private property, while I was on the road,” De Silva said.

“Before everything happened we asked the … there was a security guard there, I asked him if the road was private, he said no. So I knew I was well within my rights to take pictures on the road, I never entered onto the compound of AV Drilling.”

Officers of the Penal Police Station are investigating.

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