Saturday 19 September, 2020

Lawyer says that defamation will not be accepted

"Very shortly" defamation proceedings against some persons and media houses may be started by the lawyer representing Elliott Mottley.

Attorney-at-law Roger Forde Q.C. has made it clear that each time a defamatory statement is made it is a different case of defamation and on this basis is warning the public, especially members of the media fraternity, not to get themselves in trouble with the law.

He warned that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Speaking today to the media at the offices of Elliott D. Mottley & Co, in Shenstone, Strathclyde, St. Michael, he said:

"The public is warned that it is no defence to a claim in defamation to say that I am merely repeating what some other person had said.

"Since lies and half-truths travel faster than the truth, it is important that the truth be told early."

He made the comment ahead of his client's statement to clear up the picture painted by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and former Prime Minister Owen Arthur on May 13 in Bridgetown at a political meeting and at a press conference on May 14, respectively.

After the conference at Strathclyde, in a telephone interview with Loop News, Forde further explained that people need to refrain from publishing or making defamatory statements. Giving a simple example, he said that if someone got on the radio or political platform and said that someone else is a thief that is defamatory and once repeated, that too is defamatory. "The repetition itself from the time you speak it is a separate defamation and it is no defence to say, well somebody else say so. So you have to be careful what you publish."

To media houses he said that once you repeat, it is your publication now and not the source, therefore, the source can be sued for the part he or she played, but you can also be sued for your role in perpetuating the untruth. "So you should always be cautious of what you print. You can't even get away with it this way saying that somebody said such and such is a thief, just by repeating..." he reiterated that the media agency is liable.

He gave an example of one exemption being statements made in the House of Assembly, in that if you publish what was said verbatim, you can get away. "Statements in the House of Assembly are privileged... and once you give a verbative [sic] report of what was said in the House of Assembly, you get away with that."

In relation to the comments made by Arthur at the aforementioned press conference earlier this week, Monday, May 14th at the Barbados Today headquarters in Manor Lodge, St. Michael, the lawyer said, "It is my opinion that Mr. Arthur's statements betray a misunderstanding of the relevant laws of Barbados which deal with waivers of taxes and duties as opposed to waivers of interest and penalties for Income Tax."

Asked by Loop if any news agencies or individuals have been served with papers already, he promised it will be done but, "Not as yet, not as yet, that will be done shortly."

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