Two newspapers in July published comments by political activist Matthew Thomas, but only one was made to apologise — averting a defamation lawsuit.
The News newspaper last Friday apologised to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves for comments that Thomas made in an article it published on July 26.
But while Gonsalves demanded that The News apologise or be sued, he said nothing of the Searchlight newspaper, which published the same comments — even before The News did.
Searchlight, a publication that is widely regarded as closely aligned to the Unity Labour Party, which Gonsalves heads, published on July 23 the same comments that Gonsalves said are defamatory.
But Gonsalves has not made any public call for Searchlight to apologise for the comments.
Speaking at a press conference on July 29, when he signalled his intention to sue if The News – which he has repeatedly accused of being against him — did not apologise, Gonsalves said:
“… I see The News published an article by Matthew Thomas that the Gonsalves-led administration had instituted the criminal charge of sedition against Ordan Graham. I’m the DPP (Director of Public Prosecution)?”
Graham, a former leader of the Green Party, was charged some years ago with sedition in relation to comments he made at a political rally.
“… everybody has to be careful on this matter,” the Prime Minister said, adding that sometimes when people defame him “in a personal sense” he lets it slide.
“But when you say that I interfere with the justice in the country or I prosecute somebody or I arrest somebody — and I am indicating it to everybody who publishes it, including some fellows who publish some things like these on one or two sites, I would have to take those on too,” Gonsalves said.
“There are species of allegations which go to the governance of the country. That is to say, that I interfere with prosecution, that I order arrest, and they know it not to be true. But they are using those dastardly falsehoods to see if they can mobilise people’s opinions,’ he further stated.
Gonsalves also demanded and has since received and apology from The Vincentian newspaper for comments columnist Dr. Kenneth John made in his July 26 piece.
During the July 29 press conference, Gonsalves also cautioned the Executive Editor of I-Witness News, saying that some comments on the website could put the online publication at risk of defamation lawsuits.
Gonsalves has successfully sued several persons and at least one radio station, NICE Radio, which paid out EC$200,000 in damages earlier this year.