ROBERT AMAR, owner of More FM radio station, says he may appeal the court’s ruling for him to pay $400,000 to contractor Junior Sammy for defamatory comments.
Hosts of the station’s call-in programme, the Ground Report, accused Sammy of dishonesty in securing Government contracts. Amar said the law on libel was outdated and should be changed.
“I believe, as the judge indicated, the laws that deal with this issue of defamation is significantly dated and therefore does not provide the type of modern day understanding for the electronic media...which is unfortunate. The only ruling that it has and which the judge used in order to make his determination is the one that deals with libel which is for injury caused by the written word.
“He (the judge) was not able to cite any defamation issue (pertaining to slander which is injury caused by spoken words) along the lines of electronic mechanisms because the laws of TT do not provide for that. His ruling did indicate that media houses of our type need to ensure that we protect ourselves by creating the type of disclaimers. Although we had a disclaimer, he indicated it did not go far enough,” Amar told Newsday.
He said his legal team are considering their options because the judge, in his mind, may have felt satisfied that while he might have made the decision on a present day situation, it was geared more towards the type of media houses that existed long ago.
“He might have found a ruling that was different. We are to be very concerned that while he might have found it defaming to Junior Sammy, we have a significant amount of calypsonians in this country who perform ‘live’ calypsoes in tents that could be considered defamatory and those calypsonians have never been taken to court.
“I am sure you are aware there are situations where the calypsonian gets up and makes a statement that can be considered defamatory.” He said there was no precedent in TT for this type of infraction or perceived infraction and this needs to be fixed because freedom of speech must be available.
President of the Media Association Vernon Ramesar said every citizen had a right to go to the courts for redress if they felt they have been defamed. He said the station was not liable because the programme was contracted time.
“The matter should be looked at by the TT Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) because MATT represents journalists and this was more a talk programme.”
Calls made to president of the TTPBA Kiran Maharaj were not answered.