The Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court, on Wednesday, upheld two counts of libel brought against iWitness News; the first such development since the St. Vincent and the Grenadines based online media outlet went live in 2009.
Founder and Managing Editor, Kenton Chance, took to social media moments after the verdict was handed down and said, “the ethics of journalism does not allow me to write about this because I am a party involved but I just want to let you know in 2018 I was sued in a matter involving Adrian Da Silva.
“He came to Court and told the Court that his girlfriend Sherika Chandler had slashed him on the penis. We carried a story about that and he brought two defamation cases against iWitness News.
“They were heard at the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court by Magistrate Zoila Ellis-Brown and Magistrate Brown, this morning, upheld Mr. Da Silva’s claim and awarded him $7, 500 damages on each count.”
Veteran attorney Jomo Thomas represented IWN’s interest in the proceedings and mounted a qualified privilege defense which was ultimately rejected by the presiding Magistrate.
He told Asbert News Network, in an exclusive interview, “after hearing four witnesses the Court basically said it believed the female witness for the claimant and said that she was not satisfied that there was qualified privilege and she found Mr. Chance and iWitness News liable.”
The qualified privilege defense, if allowed, would have meant that the claimant had to prove that Chance’s iWitness News acted intentionally, recklessly, or with malice, hatred, spite, ill will or resentment towards him.
But Da Silva will have to wait a while yet before he can attempt to collect any of the $15, 000 that was awarded to him.
“We’d definitely appeal. We think that the decision is woefully inadequate and, more importantly, if this decision stands it would have – in my estimation – a chilling effect on the practice of journalism in this country.
“Because everything that was reported in that coverage, in that article came directly out of what transpired in the Court,” Thomas said.
IWN carried two articles on July 16 and September 11, 2018 that related, as all court house news reports do, details of Da Silva’s case as recorded at the Kingstown Magistrate Court.
“We are hoping that [Chance] would not have to fork out any money at all because we are confident that we will prevail on appeal,” the veteran legal defender shared.
Although the appeals process may take some time, the perspective appellants are conscious that they only “have seven days within which to file the appeal.
“Once the appeal is filed then we have to make an application to the Chief Magistrate for the minutes, for the transcript of the trial and then that goes through.
“The Court would fix a date for the hearing. The Court is coming back in June so I doubt it would be ready for June but the Court may well come back in October or December so hopefully we can have it for that.
“If this stands, the chilling effect would be hazardous,” Thomas added.