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By Colvin Brown- Social media pundits, practitioners, bloggers, tweeters as well as internet TV radio broadcasters have been warned to ensure that the information they broadcast and publish is accurate or they could end up paying millions of dollars in damages as a result of lawsuits.
On Friday, the Guyana Supreme Court ruled that Freedom Radio Inc., a Facebook social media forum on the internet which publishes the broadcast of Freedom Radio across Guyana on various FM frequencies, defamed businessman, claimant Kirk Hollingsworth in one of its broadcasts on November 12, 2019.
The Court ordered that the defendants, Freedom Radio and Speaker of the House of Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, pay the Claimant damages in the sum of $7,500,000 (seven million, five hundred thousand dollars) for defamation.
Attorney for the Defendants, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde said “the judgment of the Court points to the
need for caution and verification of information before statements which appear on social media are repeated.”
The claimant’s lawyer Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, told the court that the defendants published defamatory statements against his clients in “words [that] were published on the internet through the 1st Defendant’s Facebook social media forum and were also published on Freedom Radio 91.1 FM (Demerara), 90.5 FM (Berbice) and 90.7 (Essequibo) which is circulated throughout Guyana and internationally online.”
Forde told the court that that the words used online, in “their natural and ordinary meaning,” and by way of innuendo, would cause the reasonable reader of the Defendants’ defamatory statement, to conclude a litany of negative impressions implying corruptive action on the part of his client.
However, in his defence Manzoor Nadir, a government member of parliament, told the court that he “hosted a program on Freedom Radio on 12th November 2019 during which he “addressed issues that touch and concerned [sic] concern acts of corruption, nepotism and cronyism, and subjected the Government of Guyana and known Public Officers to the public scrutiny and reveal and disclose to the public Executive excesses, abuse of power, mismanagement, incompetence in public office, misuse of state resources, squandermania, violations of the law and the constitution by the Government and Public Officers.”
He said “my statements being complained about were based on issues that were in the public domain and that I had researched prior to my program.”
He further stated “that he is certain that his statements made while presenting his “findings” were not defamatory, false or actuated by malice towards or in relation to the Claimant.”
The Court however, did not buy Nadir’s argument, and found that the defendants liable, and ordered to pay damages as well as the claimant’s costs which are to be assessed.
Senior Counsel Forde, in commenting on the case, said “the judgment of the Court points to the need for caution and verification of information before statements which appear on social media are repeated.”
There are quite a number of Members of Parliament in Guyana, both on the side of the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and the Opposition Coalition, A Partnership for National Unity and The Alliance For Change (AFC)(APNU+AFC), who broadcast regularly on their facebook pages. (wiredja.com