Power 102FM announcer Barrington ‘Skippy’ Thomas has been indefinitely suspended from the company, for a post he made on Facebook on Carnival Tuesday, in which he used a photograph of a child posing with the prime minister, and in the words of the Children’s Authority, making “a misleading representation.”
The initial post was accompanied with the words, “Is it me alone or is this photo uncomfortable to anyone else?”
He was swiftly condemned for his comments by many of his respondents.
The child’s mother also got involved, and messaged Thomas, under the original post pleading with him to remove the photo of her child, as she neither consented to the image or the words associated with the image.
The situation escalated, and the Children’s Authority issued a statement on Wednesday, condemning Thomas’ actions.
The Authority says it is asking all to “refrain from misusing or posting photos of children that infringe on their rights and privacy or inappropriately posting photos and captions that may lead to the exploitation of a child.”
Thomas was suspended indefinitely from Power 102FM on Thursday. When Guardian called him for a comment he said it was as a result of the public outcry. He says he was told that the matter will be investigated, after which internal charges will be laid, and then he will have an opportunity to respond to those charges.
Thomas said he understood that management had been put in a dangerous situation with the matter.
He, however, insisted that he meant nothing malicious with his use of the word “flirt” to describe the child’s interaction with the prime minister in the photograph. Thomas used the word in his response to one of the mother’s requests to remove the image of her child from his page. Thomas told her, “keep her home not flirting in public with adult men.”
Thomas said those criticising him for using the word “flirt” to describe the child’s interaction with the prime minister were creating the narrative they wanted.
“Because that is not what I meant, and that is not what I said. You can flirt with danger. I have flirted with the diplomatic corps. I have flirted with being a cook, and they have used the word flirt, again maliciously, and for a reason best known to them for some deflection and a narrative to create angst and anxiety,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, director of the Children’s Authority, Hanif Benjamin said there was absolutely nothing wrong with the image of the child with the prime minister. He said children must be protected, and he reminded that parental consent was required before posting the image and likeness of any child.
But he expressed concern with the implication that the child could have initiated an inappropriate interaction with an adult. Benjamin said while he can not speak to Thomas’ intent.
“I think as a country we need to be so careful with the words we associate with our children,” he said.
He added, “The fact that you would associate a 7-year-old child with flirting with an older man, in a society where we see sexual abuse, rape and other types of issues against our children to be rampant. So we have to be careful when we are talking about child protection.”
Benjamin said the Authority’s action in the matter was limited to advocacy. However, the Trinidad & Tobago confirmed that they were aware of the matter and that it was being investigated.