ATTORNEY-AT-LAW Milton Samuda has responded to claims that the recordings of two journalists were seized and censured after an interview with sprinters Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson.
Samuda is representing the athletes as they seek to clear their name of any wrongdoing after both recently returned positive tests to their respective 'A' samples.
A release from the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) said the journalists are members of Television Jamaica (TVJ) and the The Gleaner newspaper.
In a release made public, Samuda sought to defend his actions.
“It must first be understood that the journalists were told up front that the questions in the interview would be restricted. That was the basis on which the journalists agreed to participate.
“It is standard procedure for those preparing for a hearing to be advised to restrict public statements to matters which will not arise in that hearing. The fact that other questions were posed was the basis on which the journalists were asked for the tapes so as to remove those questions and the answers,” the statement said.
Samuda, who is chairman of TVJ and director at the RJR Group, continued: “The journalists acted honourably and complied with my request.
“At no time were the tapes ‘seized’ or ‘confiscated’ and certainly no ‘equipment’ was.”
In addressing suggestions of a conflict of interest in his role as legal representative for the athletes and as TVJ chairman, Samuda said:
“I do not tolerate conflict of interest, but it cannot be that those of us who hold several different positions in society are ipso facto prevented from acting decisively in any.
“Throughout, I acted as one of the Attorneys-at-Law for Miss Simpson and Mr Powell. My primary duty was and is to protect their interests.”
A PAJ statement a day earlier, demanded explanation on reports that the journalists’ rights were breached.
“The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) views with alarm reports that the video recordings of two journalists were seized after an interview with athletes Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson,” the PAJ statement said.
It added: “During the interview when certain questions were raised about the supplements — the number of supplements they were taking before Christopher Xuereb was hired and how many they were taking after, as well as what they knew about the substance oxilofrine, the athlete's attorney Milton Samuda intervened and objected to those questions indicating that they had not previously agreed to answering those queries.”
“Mr Samuda then demanded both video recordings and these were handed over. The tapes were returned a day later with the interview erased and an edited version submitted.”
It continued: “The PAJ reminds its members that except for threat to life or a court order they should, under no other circumstances, hand over notes or recordings to parties outside of their professional supervision.
“The commitment of journalists is to the public and we must use every opportunity to ask important questions without fear or favour. The information relayed must stand up to professional scrutiny.
“Based on our investigation we believe that the journalists felt they had no choice but to comply with the demand to hand over their video recordings.
“We call on Mr Samuda to clearly state his position in what appears to be a conflict of interest in this matter. As guardians of freedom of expression and democracy this compromise of journalistic integrity cannot be tolerated.”