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
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
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.