Jul 25, 2021 News
By Renay Sambach
Kaieteur News – Very often lawsuits are filed in the High Court against social commentary persons, politicians and media entities for defamation, libel or slander.
This article focuses on the legalities of the defamation, libel and slander and other aspects of the charge. In most cases, people confuse the three due to the fact they fall in the area of law that deals with false statements, which harm a person’s reputation.
Defamation is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation and usually constitutes a tort or crime. It should be noted that libel and slander are types of defamatory statements. Libel is a defamatory statement that is written. Slander is a defamatory statement that is oral.
LAWS OF GUYANA
In Guyana, there is the Defamation Act. The Act outlines the different aspects of DEFAMATION.
Section 4 outlines, “In any action for slander in respect of words calculated to disparage the plaintiff in any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time of the publication, it shall not be necessary to allege or prove special damage, whether or not the words are spoken of the plaintiff in the way of his office, profession, calling, trade or business.”
Section 5(1) , “In an action for slander of title, slander of goods or other malicious falsehood, it shall not be necessary to allege or prove special damage – (a) if the words upon which the action is founded are calculated to cause pecuniary damage to the plaintiff and are published in writing or other permanent form;” or
“(b) If the said words are calculated to cause pecuniary damage to the plaintiff in respect of any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time of the publication.”
“(2) Section 3 shall apply for the purposes of this section as it applies for the purposes of the law of libel and slander.”
Section 6, “Words spoken and published which impute unchastity or adultery to any person shall not require special damage to render them actionable: Provided always, that in any action for words spoken and made actionable by this section, a plaintiff shall not recover more costs than damages, unless the judge certifies that there was reasonable ground for bringing the action.”
The law further stipulates, “In any action for libel or slander the defendant (after notice in writing of his intention to do so, duly given to the plaintiff at the time of filing or delivering the plea in that action) may give in evidence in mitigation of damages that he made or offered an apology to the plaintiff for the libel or slander before the commencement of the action, or as soon afterwards as he had an opportunity of doing so, if the action has been commenced before there was an opportunity of making or offering.”
Earlier this year a default judgment, resulted in Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, being ordered to pay $20 Million in damages to former Junior Minister of Communities (Housing), Annette Ferguson, for defamation.
The judgment was made by High Court Judge, Justice, Sandra Kurtzious.
According to reports, last year before demitting office, the Junior Minister filed a lawsuit against Jagdeo and the Guyana Times Newspaper claiming in excess of $20M in damages for libel. Apart from $20 Million in damages, Jagdeo was also ordered to pay $75,000 in court costs to Ferguson.
The default judgment reportedly occurred after Jagdeo failed to file a defence against the libel suit within the required time provided for under Part 12:01 (2) (d) of the Civil Procedure Rules of the Supreme Court of Judicature.
In another story, former President David Granger, filed a libel lawsuit claiming a total of $2,650,000,000 from local communications consultant, Kit Nascimento, and a list of media houses including the Kaieteur News, Stabroek News and Guyana Times.
In addition, the lawsuit lists Editor-in-Chief of Guyana Times, Tusika Martin; Kaieteur News owner, Glenn Lall, and Kaieteur News’ Editor-in-Chief, Sharmain Grainger; and Stabroek News’ Editor-in-Chief, Anand Persaud, as respondents.
It was reported that the Statement of Claim (SoC) filed by attorney Roysdale Forde, SC, the former Head-of-State accused the newspapers of publishing defamatory information about him, which were contained in letters and opinion pieces written by Kit Nascimento in 2020.
As a result, Granger made 53 claims for damages of worth of G$50 Million for each instance that the information was published, totalling G$2,650,000,000.
In February 2021, the High Court awarded Winston Brassington, former Executive Director of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), in excess of $20M in lawsuit against Kaieteur News.
The case is related to a series of lawsuits filed by the former NICIL Head over the “Dem Boys Seh” articles, which he claims, contained offensive and defamatory content against him.
According to the claim, the reference in the article to “that fat crook Brazzy” in the satirical column of the newspaper meant and was understood to mean that the newspaper and its editor sought to convey that he, as NICIL’s head was “dishonest, had been guilty of criminal activity and corrupt practices” in the conduct of his work.
The projects included the award of a road construction contract for US$18M in the first phase of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project, the Pradoville Two Housing Project, East Coast Demerara, and the sale of the state-owned Sanata Textile Complex.
Kaieteur News, its publisher, Glenn Lall, and its former Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, were all listed as defendants in the matter.
In that matter, in response to the lawsuit, the defendants through their lawyer, Nigel Hughes, had pleaded justification and fair comment. However, in the ruling delivered electronically by Justice, Navindra Singh, noted that Lall and Harris insisted on asserting the truth of the libel by pleading a defence of justification and of fair comment despite there being no factual basis for such a defence.
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