Sep 18, 2020 News
– appeal to be filed
In five separate judgment awards against Kaieteur News and its former Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, Justice Fidela-Corbin on Wednesday ordered that approximately $18M be paid to former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, for libel.
The awards came from a plethora of claims filed by Brassington for publications in the popular Dem Boys Seh column of the Kaieteur News, which he said damaged his character.
According to court documents, the plaintiff (Brassington) claimed that the defendants (Kaieteur News and one of its principals, former Editor-in –Chief, Adam Harris, printed and published verbatim, the words “dat fat crook Brazzy” in the column of the newspaper of national circulation.
He claimed that the newspaper and its editor meant and were understood to mean that he as NICIL’s head was “dishonest, and had been guilty of criminal activity and was habitually guilty of criminal activity and had engaged in criminal fraud and corrupt practices” in the conduct of his work in a number of projects including the award of a road construction contract for US$18M for the first phase of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project to Synergy.
As a result, Brassington noted that the Kaieteur News insinuated that he must be held accountable and jailed for his alleged fraudulent actions.
The former NICIL head noted that the information severely impacted his character and integrity given that it was published in a newspaper which was widely read and circulated throughout Guyana and online where it is read worldwide, more particularly by the Guyanese diaspora in Europe, North America and the Caribbean.
According to the judgment, while Brassington did not provide any evidence of significant damage being done to his reputation and standing or that he was shunned or suffered a loss of prestige among his business and accounting circles, the evidence is that he was made the subject of ridicule and suspicion as a result of this and other publications.
He gave evidence with respect to what his children reported to him was allegedly being said by their school mates and teachers and that he was subject to questions from persons known to him about the said articles.
In defence, Kaieteur News and its principals admitted to the publication of the column but denies that the words were of or pertaining to or were written and published falsely and maliciously or were libelous of and concerning Brassington.
The newspaper through its lawyers contended that the words were justified, fair comment on a matter of public interest and, alternatively, that the words were published on an occasion of qualified privilege.
However in handing down her judgment, the Judge pointed out that Kaieteur News neither apologised nor issued a retraction.
Instead, she said the evidence shows that the newspapers repeated the libel and/or the substance of the libel in other publications.
In her judgment, the Judge noted the evidence that his family suffered gravely – that he submitted that he was the subject of ridicule and suspicion as a result of the publications, and that his friends would telephone him about the publications.
Having weighed all the aggravating and mitigating factors, and having regard to the purpose of an award of damages, the Judge ordered that the newspaper and its former Editor-in-Chief jointly and severally pay Brassington damages in the sum of $18M.
The judgment awards were handed down separately with orders for Kaieteur News and its former Editor-in-Chief to jointly and severally pay Brassington costs in the sum of $220,000. Attorney-at-Law Timothy Jonas appeared for Brassington, while attorney-at-Law Shaunella Glen represented Kaieteur News and Adam Harris.
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