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Editorial: Strange but true
Published on November 28, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

An apology read out on air in Saint Lucia, which might charitably be described as craven, represents a new low in the ongoing practice of media intimidation by governments in the region generally and in Saint Lucia in particular, and the submission to such intimidation by the media.

Of course, the situation may be different in Trinidad, where it seems the media is in bed – literally, as well as figuratively – with politicians.

However, be that as it may, three government officials in Saint Lucia apparently forced local broadcaster Timothy Poleon to admit that they were defamed by his reading on air an article published by Caribbean News Now on September 25, 2013, entitled “US action against St Lucia may be connected to visa revocation”.

A summary of subsequent threats of legal action against Poleon and why, in our considered and reconsidered opinion, nothing in our article was defamatory in the first place, may be found here.

On Monday, Poleon read the following on Radio Caribbean International:
 

On September 25th 2013 an article appeared on a website entitled US action against Saint Lucia may be connected to visa revocation. This article contained statements which were highly defamatory of certain individuals including the minister of tourism and creative industries, Honourable Lorne Theophilus; the minister of foreign affairs, Honourable Alva Baptiste and the president of the senate, Claudius Francis. Essentially I stated that, in respect of Mr Baptiste, among other things, that present day government officials who were then in opposition supplied the United States government with false information in a successful bid to discredit a then minister of government. I also referred to the unimpeded ability of two government officials to travel to the United States despite their past criminal conduct. I accept that, taking into consideration all the surrounding circumstances, ordinary sensible listeners could and would have come to the conclusion that I was referring to Mr Theophilus and Mr Francis. I unreservedly accept and wish to state that the statements made in respect of these individuals were and are highly defamatory of them and that there is absolutely no factual basis for such statements, which allege and insinuate among other things that these individuals are guilty of an ethical, immoral and professional and criminal misconduct. I was wrong to have published these statements on air or at all. I accept that by publishing this highly defamatory article on air that I made it my own. I was negligent in that regard. I wish to take this opportunity on behalf of Radio Caribbean International and on my own behalf to apologise for the inevitable injury to their reputations by my repetition of these malicious and unfounded allegations.

Assuming that the apology was in fact required purely on the strength of Poleon’s reading of our article in question and no other statements were involved that may have been made on air at the time, this must surely be the first case where a journalist has been forced to apologise for something that was never said in the first place.

First of all, the minister of foreign affairs, Alva Baptiste, apparently thinks our article stated that, “among other things” (whatever those other things might be), he is one of the present day Saint Lucian government officials who were then in opposition that supplied the United States government with false information in a successful bid to discredit a then minister of government.

The only mention of Baptiste in our original article was in connection with his visit to the US Embassy in Bridgetown, reportedly at the request of the US government, accompanied by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, national security minister Phillip La Corbiniere; commissioner of police Vernon Francois; and George Deterville (about whom more at a later date).

Since when does a stated visit to Barbados become an issue of reputational injury, even if it is untrue? In this case, the fact of the matter is easily proven one way or the other by the relevant embassy logs. And what about the other four individuals named as visiting the embassy? One can only assume that they did not feel as grievously injured as Baptiste clearly does, for reasons apparently best known to himself.

By thus voluntarily taking ownership of the alleged provision of false information to the United States government, does Baptiste have something to hide of which we were hitherto unaware? If this is so, thanks for the “heads up”.

Next, the other two individuals, Theophilus and Francis, neither of whom were actually named anywhere in our original article, nevertheless claimed that they were therein accused of past criminal conduct.

This is also misguided. What we stated was that two unnamed “prominent Saint Lucian government officials … have a known history of violent sexual assault”. Again, Theophilus and Francis took ownership of this assertion.

As outlined in our subsequent article, the facts of the matter are that Theophilus and Francis have each been accused and formally charged with rape (more about this later also). However, as previously made clear, criminal conduct is not substantiated by allegations, charges or indictments; it has to be proven in a court of law.

Nevertheless, Theophilus and Francis apparently now acknowledge that it was “criminal conduct”, when none was alleged, by us at least, even though such conduct may have been alleged by the respective victims and the director of public prosecutions.

Last but not least, why has no approach whatsoever been made to Caribbean News Now by the individuals allegedly defamed or their attorneys, seeking to correct the information contained in the article in question and requiring an apology and/or retraction from us?

One might in fact argue that Poleon has now defamed Caribbean News Now by stating that our article contained statements which were highly defamatory, when in fact they were not, for the reasons outlined.

 
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Comments:

Steve Huggins:

I agree that, in the event your reportorial account above is accurate, (then) Monsieur Timothy Poleon and/or Radio Caribbean International may have possibly inadvertently done the 'opposite or reverse' and unintentionally defamed "a website" and, or, the writer, editor and publisher of "an article appeared on a website" apparently on 25 September, 2013, entitled "US action against St. Lucia may be connected to visa revocation..."

I would like to remind our Caribbean journalistic KEEPERS OF THE FORT OF PRESS FREEDOM that we must not ever cower before these petty, wannabe despots. The destiny of our regional freedom of expression lies in your courage, temerity and nerve. Re-dedicate your very lives AND FORTUNES to the laudable task of PROTECTING AND EXTENDING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, inclusive of the print and electronic press (and INTERNET) in our dearly beloved Anglo-phone WEST INDIES.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Marxist ideologue Ralph Gonsalves regime has carried out a vicious, unremitting, political persecution against THE NEWS newspaper and its editor Mr. SHELLY CLARKE, and, against Mr. DOUGLAS De FREITAS and his BDS NICE RADIO [incidentally 2% radio and 98% love].

In SVG lawsuits contra alleged defamation, slander and libel are flying LEFT, right, and centre.

Ask the Vincentian school children, and they would readily inform you that it a certain paranoid character called "SUE" and "SUZIE WANG" who is doing most of this SUING every Monday morning.

Now, I have been reliably informed that there ins a SAME OLD political "CLONE" who have now suddenly embarked on his massa's political tricks IN ORDER TO INTIMIDATE HIS PERCEIVED OPPONENTS AND SUPPRESS POLITICAL DISSENT or OBJECTIVE, FAIR, CRITICISM.

In Grenada, the 'brand-new political regime DUSTED OFF THEIR LEFTIST PRESS CONTROL "Secret Weapon" in their shameless, naked, bare-faced attempt at suppressing the free expression of political views on the internet and worldwide web. They have more lately thrown a sop for our consciences, or theirs, when faced with the massive onslaught of outrage and denunciations.

The Barbados government (or their police force/legal establishment)more recently could not apparently put criminal or civil charges against THE NATION newspaper for an admittedly shocking, even pornographic front-page pix of young [homosexual'] act-in-commission presumably at a school building --- without staging a over-kill by the police arm melo-dramatically ARREST some principals at that paper.

One formerly 'progressive', black-power era mouth-champion once held the elderly female editor of The VINCENTIAN newspaper to political 'ransom', when he insisted on Mrs. NORA PEACOCKE disclosing to him the then political attorney general, the real identity of the writer of a particular critical journalistic piece, writing under the pseudonym "Quo Vadis" - - - failure to do so was to be to GO TO JAIL. These small-minded, tin-pot political dictators.

The writer "Quo Vadis" turned out to be the eminent WEST INDIAN AUTHOR, sometimes acting/guest editor of The VINCENTIAN Newspaper, Mr. GEORGE C. H. THOMAS, the successful author of the master-piece of a WEST INDIAN NOVEL, "Ruler in Hirouna", wonderfully parodying the pompous, obsequitous OECS politicians.

So, the problem is not merely ST. LUCIAN. It is actually, in the essential, REGIONAL.

Press freedom is fast becoming a brutally targeted commodity in our 21st Century Caricom.

I have long noted how the several governments of these small micro-states assiduously seek to CONTROL AND STRAIT-JACKET the very thinking of our FREE WEST INDIAN PEOPLES. Our fly-by-night politicians and their more recent demagogic ideologues can be overbearingly domineering to the extreme.

My fellow West Indians, the ETERNAL VIGILANCE besides not a little "blood, sweat and tears" are indeed THE PRICE OF PRECIOUS FREEDOM.

Shall we surrender as MENTAL OR PHYSICAL SLAVES to the enemies of freedom, OR, shall we STAND UP FOR HUMAN LIBERTY - - - the divinely given FREEDOMS OF CONSCIENCE, THOUGHT, EXPRESSION, ASSEMBLY, COMMUNICATION...?

Do we as sovereign, independent, and free peoples, STILL STAND for the enlightened goals of life, liberty, and the free enjoyment of "property"?

Whither shall we go, West India?

QUO VADIS?

Choose FREEDOM, my people. Of which PRESS FREEDOM is an integral and indispensable component.

Anthony Gajadhar:

The Media is an important means of information, in the days of my youth, we had only the BBC radio for overseas news, today, there is competition in that industry, Trying to woo readers and viewers to convince advertisers where they get their only source of income, therefore the more exciting their news are to readers, in whatever form , attracts advertisers. Murdock today has a different agenda, his newspapers in Australia, UK , USA and elsewhere already established, therefor their coverage of News are for a different purpose, that is politics, therefore starting and growing news media should be careful dealing too much into politics, or else they will be short lived

Steve Huggins:

Anthony, a very pedestrian excuse for analysis --- if I may say so.

WHAT utter hateful thinking to SELECTIVELY, malicious, TARGET our fellow Commonwealth citizen, Mr. Rupert Murdock --- for your own NARROW, bigoted, discrediting motives.

ARE YOU so ignorant of the historical of journalistic BIAS, especially as sometimes exhibited in NEWSPAPERS?

ARE YOU opportunistically suggesting that OTHER MEDIA and MEDIA moguls ARE FREE OF POLITICAL BIAS and/or partisanship?

Are you so woefully unaware of the OFTEN ORGANIC CONNECTIONS OR LINKS BETWEEN POLITICAL PARTIES and various print and electronic media?

Did you know of the political party and family that owned a RADIO STATION here in ANTIQUA and BARBUDA?

Have you yet read the current article here on CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW !(CNN) on the ALLEGED LINKS BETWEEN THE MEDIA AND CERTAIN POLITICAL PARTY (or Parties?

Don't you hear of the running West Indian joke about the POLITICAL COLONIZATION of TWO OF THE MAIN NEWSPAPERS in ST. VINCENT?

WHERE have you been these last years, Toney, to be so abysmally naïve, epistemologically IGNORANT, and WOEFULLY uninformed?

Or, is it mere strategic prejudice, bias and bigotry?

What I cannot quite fathom is how come some detractors tend to take a basically specific OECS or WEST INDIAN issue and try to take pot-shots at and spew venom at their favourite US whipping-boy or ideological TARGET FOR DESTRUCTION.

Whst, on earth does the media owner, Mr. Murdoch, has to have to do with our 'little kettle of fish', here?

The gentleman saw the VULGAR, CANNIBALISTIC BIAS AND INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY of much of the USA MEDIA, especially the major networks --- with their ONE-SIDED, PARTISAN, SKEWED stories and treatment of the NEWS and CURRENT EVENTS, and realized that a lot of other people in North America and elsewhere were TOTALLY, UTTERLY FED-UP with these shameful displays from supposed, 'admired', professionals.

What did he do about it?

As a businessman with some media background, and a successful 'billionaire', he endeavoured to attempt to rectify the situation --- and make an honest 'buck' from the untenable situation.

He further studied and analyzed the USA MEDIA ENVIRONMENT, smartly chose a great, effective and efficient CEO, AND together they developed a near fool-proof STRATAGEM: let BOTH SIDES, the ideological LEFT and RIGHT, argue out their partisan positions WHEN PUT TOGETHER IN THE SAME VIRTUAL SPACE AND TIME --- under the full glare of the klieg lights of superb, top-of-the-line, high tech TELEVISION facilities and equipment.

SOON, in almost no time at all, RUPERT MURDOCK's and ROGER AYLES' electronic media experiment gambit, FOX NEWS CHANNEL, took off, made a fabulous hit with AMERICANS AND PEOPLE WORLDWIDE, and FOR MORE THAN THE PAST DECADE has fully, properly WHIPPED ALL THE OTHER NEWS NETWORKS in CHANNEL RATINGS and media revenue.

That includes overcoming and sidelining our US 'namesake' CNN, i.e., CABLE NEWS NETWORK, which had begin to displace the highly 'milk and water socialism' coverage of the British Broadcasting Corporation with which we had been formerly more acquainted.

One measure of FNC's resounding SUCCESS AS A MEDIA ENTERPRISE is the steady and increasing stream of TOP-NOTCH professional journalists, anchors, hosts, reporters, news analysts, and commentators, WHO are constantly ABANDONING their other [formerly] top CABLE NEWS CHANNELS to find REAL FULFILLING PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTIC EXPERIENCES AND TRUELY CHALLENGING CAREERS with Mr. Roger Ayles's FOX NEWS CHANNEL (FNC), and its capable proprietor RUPERT MURDOCK.

Each your heart out, Anthony, since you apparently choose to parrot the jealous ideological disinformation, false propaganda, and biased bigotry of certain intellectually dishonest naysayers.

But, why should we even spend time with this decidedly US media phenomena?

We in the OECS and CARICOM have OUR OWN BACK-YARD TO TAKE AMPLE CARE OF, and our hands are full. Note the multiplicity of shocking happenings in just ST. LUCIA alone.

WHO illegally, improperly, and immorally 'gave' unauthorized permission - - - since Governor General has plainly communicated that she did not authorize such to ANY ONE - - - to that foreign OIL EXPLORATION CONCERN to 'explore' in SAN LUCIE's sovereign waters and territory?

WHERE IS THE INFORMATION? WHERE IS THE TRANSPARENCY? WHO IS LEGALLY and/or ILLEGALLY SUPPRESSING THIS INFORMATION and supposed 'government business' from the PEOPLE?

And, where are the resignations?
ISN'T IT HIGH TIME that we see such?

Will we now be SUED FOR JOURNALISTICALLY investigating and reporting on these SERIOUS political-social-economic issues IN ORDER TO PROPERLY FULFILL OUR FUNCTION OF INFORMING THE ADULT ELECTORATE - - - or, shall we be STAINED BY THE NASTY BIG-LIE PROCESS of being 'blamed' for supposed slander, libel, or "defamation"?

Is it "defamation" to call a political crook, a "political crook" - - - ONCE ONE HAS THE CASE FACTS?

I guess it is now trite to chant "IF it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then by all means IT IS DUCK.

A POLITICAL CROOK IS AS A POLITICAL CROOK DOES.

In hindsight, Prime Minister ERROL BARROW of neighbour BARBADOS was ALSO PROPHETIC in his categorizing many of these political leaders in the OECS as "POLITICAL BANDITS." History, and TIME since then, has vindicated him and fully proved him to be correct. The only flaw, here, may be that he should have extended his observation, critique and analysis to the larger WEST INDIAN polities AS WELL.

Today, politicians in the highest levels of governments are legally accused of RAPE, and escape prosecution SCOTS-FREE through duplicitous political machinations.

Today, highly placed politicians REFUSE TO ABIDE BY the requirements for MAJORITY RULE in State parliaments, AND THEREBY HOLD THEIR OECS NATIONS HOSTAGE by their illegal, unparliamentary THEFT OF POLITICAL POWER.

Today, heads of political regimes (or former heads) and top political leaders ARE EVEN ACTING like RUNNING DOGS in their efforts to escape the long arm of the law, and the British residual authorities - - - after being accused, investigated, charged, or convicted of MOST CORRUPT PRACTICES AND CRIMES.

Now, the instant case of Lucian journalists being beaten into the dust, apparently, of the need to put daily bread on their tables, or otherwise obtain sustenance to "keep soul and body together" - - - and, in my humble opinion, BEING UNETHICALLY FORCED TO RETRACT STORIES OR PROFESSIONAL POSITIONS, or even star-chamber-esque 'confessing' to non-existent 'wrongs'.

Our continued freedom and independence demand hard work and supreme sacrifices.

My fellow OECS, and CARICOM, citizens, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, THE PRICE OF OUR FREEDOM is OUR ETERNAL VIGILANCE - - - inclusive of Churchillian "blood, sweat, and tears."

Let us, my brethren STRUGGLE FOR OUR GOD-GIVEN FREEDOMS OF LIFE, LIBERTY, and the free enjoyment of PRIVATE PROPERTY, including INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.

Forward to FREEDOMs OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE, ASSEMBLY, RELIGION, MOVEMENT, and COMMUNICATION.

May PRESS FREEDOM, print, electronic and virtual, LONG REIGN IN THESE BEAUTIFIC ISLES bestowed and bequeathed to us by our Almighty, EVER-LIVING, Creator.


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