The press became ensnarled in Trinidad and Tobago's racially charged politics, with the daily Trinidad Guardian at the center of the controversy. On Feb. 2, Prime Minister Basdeo Panday barred Guardian reporters from access to government information in an effort to force the paper's owners to fire editor in chief Jones P. Madeira, whom the prime minister had called a racist. The ban lasted until Feb. 7. Panday has been very critical of the media since he took office in November 1995, and has clashed with Madeira over the Guardian's editorials. In April, several senior staff members, including Madeira and managing editor Alwin Chow, said that the paper's owners, the Trinidad Publishing Co., had forced them to resign. Chow told CPJ that Trinidad Publishing, either willingly or under government pressure, sought to appease officials by ousting the journalists. The chairman of the publishing company denied Chow's charges.

In May, Chow, Madeira and several former Guardian journalists started a new weekly newspaper, the Independent.

The specter of a 1990 failed coup attempt still haunts the country. In a conference on the media and democracy held in Port of Spain in August, former Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson cautioned that "the whole society will be destroyed" if the government interferes with media coverage.

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