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HomeNews DeskCourtsDOMINICA-COURT-Journalist wins defamation case against newspaper

DOMINICA-COURT-Journalist wins defamation case against newspaper

by STAFF WRITER

ROSEAU, Dominica, Feb 19, CMC – A High Court judge has awarded journalist, Carlisle Jno Baptiste, EC$15,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) in damages after she found that he had been defamed by a newspaper article published on June 27, 2014.

But while Justice Jacqueline Josiah-Graham found that the Chronicle Media Group Inc., publishers of The Chronicle Newspaper had in the article titled ‘A Moder’s Love’, she dismissed the lawsuit against the printers, Paramount Printers Ltd.

Jno Baptiste had argued that the statements published were false and malicious and were defamatory of him. He sought damages, including aggravated and exemplary damages, an injunction restraining the defendants from further publishing the offending words, interest, costs, and other reliefs.

His attorneys had also argued that the publication constituted “a vicious and deliberate attack” on the reputation of their client which caused injury to his character and reputation and made him subject to ridicule, odium, and contempt.

Jno Baptiste also alleges the publication occasioned him hurt feelings and humiliation, and his reputation has been lowered in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally.

In a defense filed on April 29, 2015, the newspaper admitted having published the column and that Jno Baptiste is well known in Dominica, and is a person known as a newspaper reporter and commentator on current events.

But it denied the words which he complained of in the column bore or were capable of bearing any of the meanings alleged by him to be defamatory as they have no defamatory sense.

The newspaper also denied that the words were written and published falsely and maliciously or were libelous of and concerning the claimant and in the way as averred in the statement of claim.

For its part, the printers did not admit publication of the column. It admits to printing the edition of the June 27,  2014 newspaper but claims it did not know the content of the newspaper item at the time of printing.

The court heard that it is the defense of the defendants that the “Nabes and I” article is a satirical and comical ‘story-telling’ literary piece published weekly for quite some time in the newspaper, including the said issue and of all issues of The Chronicle newspaper in which it is published, meant to comment on current events and topics amusingly and entertainingly.

Further, they argued that this is how the piece is read, understood, and accepted by right-thinking readers and members of society.

But in the 35-page ruling Justice Josiah-Graham said that while libel is serious by the imputations, there is no evidence of any significant damage to the claimant’s reputation and standing.

Se said Jno Baptiste, who was also a FIFA referee, admitted that he has not lost “any ‘gigs’/jobs since the ‘A Moder’s Love’ column was published”.

She said that only two witnesses testified on his behalf and that both of them attest to having a good relationship with him.

“None of the Claimant’s witnesses testified that the article caused them to lower their esteem of the Claimant, or that they shunned him, or that they are no longer friends with him. They both testify that they remained his friends even after the publication of the Column,” the judge noted.

She said one of the witnesses,  Matthias Peltier, who is a long-time friend, said that he did not even believe the imputations supposedly made of the Claimant. In contrast, the other witness, Keith Boyce, said that he believed the allegations supposedly made in the Column and has remained friends with the Claimant.

“They both testify that they did not shun him remaining good friends with him to this day and (Peltier) even continued to invite him to report on his Daily radio call-in programme.

“I therefore regard the instant Claimant’s evidence of the loss he suffered rests substantially on the injury to his feelings and distress caused to the injury to his reputation. The impact of the statements to the Claimant, on the evidence presented on a balance of probabilities, is therefore limited to his hurt feelings and distress.

“The evidence provided fails to prove any financial or other loss but rather illustrates how he felt by the people he accused of shunning him after the publication of the column. Accordingly, the Court holds that the extent of the publication of the statements on the Claimant is limited to his emotional distress and hurt feelings, as per the available evidence and on a balance of probabilities,” the judge ruled.

She said judgment is granted to Jno Baptiste against the newspaper, which shall not republish the article.

Further, the newspaper shall pay the claimant damages assessed in the sum of EC$15,000.00 with statutory interest at the rate of five percent awarded on this sum from the date of judgment to the date of full settlement of payment.

In addition, the newspaper shall pay Jno Baptiste’s prescribed costs for EC$7,500.

She said that the claim against the printers is dismissed and that Jno Baptiste shall pay the printer’s prescribed costs for EC$2,500.

CMC/hg/ir/2024

Find below the full text of the judgment.

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