The International Press Institute (IPI) today expressed concern over reports that an unexploded hand grenade was found inside the headquarters of The Punch, a Nassau, Bahamas-based twice-weekly tabloid.
According to a Royal Bahamas Police Force statement, at around 11:45 pm on Nov. 18 officers responded to an alarm at the building, where they discovered that the front doors had been smashed in. Stepping just inside the entrance, the officers then found what is believed to be a hand grenade.
The Tribune newspaper, citing conflicting sources, reported that a bomb squad was sent in and the device was “[defused] at a remote location,” but the paper later suggested that a “controlled explosion” may have taken place at the scene.
Attempts to contact The Punch’s owner, Ivan Johnson, for comment were unsuccessful.
“We are relieved to hear that no one was injured in this attempted act of violence against The Punch newspaper,” IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said today. “But the Bahamian police should not allow that to stop them from vigorously pursuing and holding accountable whoever was behind this act, particularly considering the fact that the newspaper has received numerous threats in the past.”
She added: “The Bahamian government should also make clear that attempts to intimidate the press, should this be one, will not be tolerated.”
Investigators have not yet offered a concrete motive. Jill Albury, The Punch’s marketing manager, told The Tribune that the paper “had received no threats of any kind” in advance of the grenade incident.
“We are open for business, but it was a live grenade, the pin was out and it could have exploded,” Albury said, according to The Tribune. “We are not afraid to come to work, we are here now, we just have to be extra careful.”
In an address to the House of Assembly on Wednesday, opposition leader Dr. Hubert A. Minnis noted: “Just yesterday, an attempt was initiated to bomb a media house. In our small country Mr. Speaker, a hand grenade was thrown into the facility, fortunately the grenade did not detonate causing damage to facility and possible threatening lives. This is a direct assault on our basic rights and freedoms as a nation for we must better protect all Bahamians, as well as our information institutions.”
Minnis then asked the speaker of the House of Assembly to introduce a Freedom of Information Act.