EDITORIAL: Let’s talk about defamation, shall we?
Recently, High Court Master Fidela Corbin-Lincoln handed down a ruling that has paved the way for Prime Minister Gaston Browne to sue Damani Tabor for defamation. The spokesperson for the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) will now have to defend himself in the High Court against the claim that he has defamed the prime minister as it relates to comments made about the prime minister’s wife’s charity. It is going to be an interesting one.
Defamation is an interesting thing. In this case, even the Master did not interpret the words uttered by Damani to mean what the prime minister and his legal team were inferring. In her nine-page ruling she stated that while, she, a legal officer, does not find that the words complained or connotate any illegality or corruption, she had to bear in mind that that was not what she was asked to consider. If that is confusing to you then you are not alone.
This thing called defamation is an interesting legal concept in the Caribbean. Prior to the most recent changes to the laws, defamation was a “fine and confine” law. Meaning that you could see some time behind bars for defaming a person. Luckily, the criminal element has been removed and it is now a civil action, which can be an extremely effective weapon against an opponent and media once you can get the case into court.
From our point of view, we are the “pig in the middle”, as publisher and broadcaster, the OBSERVER Media Group finds itself too often before the court to defend ourselves for what other people have said. For full disclosure, we are part of this action as the Prime Minister has included us in the lawsuit as defendants. But we are not here to talk specifically about this matter but more about the oddities of defamation, in general. We are simply using some of the Master’s comments as reference.