President of the Human Rights Association, lawyer Nicole Sylvester, is standing by her decision to sue three media houses, saying the court action is not an anti-human-rights stance.
“It is absolutely not. It is very critical because of what was at the stake and crux of the issue, that I disclosed — that is what the allegation made — the whereabouts of a witness who was in a witness protection programme,” Sylvester told I-Witness News on the weekend.
Lawyer Kay Bacchus-Browne has filed on behalf of Sylvester lawsuits against Star FM, a radio station owned by the ruling Unity labour Party, and Searchlight and The Vincentian newspapers.
The lawsuit comes after the media houses accused Sylvester of disclosing the whereabouts of a female in a witness protection programme during a murder trial some years ago.
Sylvester said she decided to sue because the media houses refused/failed to apologise as requested.
Hans King, press secretary to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, trade unionist and political activist Joseph “Burns” Bonadie, and WE FM, a privately-owned radio station, apologised for making/broadcasting the allegation and settled with Sylvester, paying her undisclosed sums of money.
“I never knew the location of the witness in the first place, I pursued cross-examination of witnesses and I said, and I will say again, because the statement that was served on me said the location of the witness, but what I asked in cross-examination, when you gave this statement if you did not give this statement as stated on your witness statement,” Sylvester said.
“Nowhere did I speak about the address of the witness. It was said that I disclosed their whereabouts. And on that basis, I had to draw the line, because I respect the rights of witness in a witness protection programme, and I will certainly not tolerate that message being sent out,” she told I-Witness News.
“Certainly, Hans King apologised, “Burns” Bonadie apologised, WE FM did as well, and as a result of that, a certain settlement was arrived at. The issue is live with Searchlight, Vincentian and Star FM and I will not comment on those issues, because that matter is sub judice,” she further said.
Sylvester further said all the party involved were given an opportunity to apologise and avoid a lawsuit.
“They were written to, but those ones chose and did so (apologised); the others haven’t. Those matters are currently sub judice,” she said.
The cases against the media house have been contrasted with the lawsuit that Gonsalves has brought against NICE Radio, another privately owned radio station, which two years ago paid EC$200,000 to him for defamation.
Some member of the public who supported the lawsuit said that now deceased political activist Eduardo “E.G.” Lynch, whose comments resulted in the lawsuit, should have been made to “pay for his mouth”, while others said the lawsuit was an anti-free-speech move.
A campaign was launch to “save” NICE Radio and raised some of the monies used to pay the EC$200,000.
“I didn’t want anyone to save me. What I did not want as President of the Human Rights is to allow the Human Rights Association to be tarnished by saying that this is what the president did. And I certainly will go down defending the rights of human rights,” Sylvester told I-Witness News.