Political activist and newspaper columnist Juliet Davy has been ordered to pay Oropuche East MP Dr Roodal Moonial $500,000 in compensation for defamation.
In a judgement delivered at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain this afternoon, High Court Judge Robin Mohammed ruled that Davy defamed the former Housing Minister in two columns written by Davy and published by the TNT Mirror weekly newspaper between May and June 2016.
In the columns, Davy allegedly accused the former housing minister of becoming one of the richest persons in T&T through corruption. The columns referred to a list published by website imgur.com which claimed to identify the 25 richest persons in T&T. Moonilal appeared fourth on the list which estimated his personal fortune at $2.58 billion.
Testifying in the trial of the case, Moonilal claimed the re-publication of the erroneous information caused irreparable harm and distress to his professional reputation. However, he admitted that he did not seek to determine the origin of the list or contact the moderator of the site to have it or his name removed.
When she took the witness stand, Davy denied any wrongdoing as she contended the columns were commentary pieces which fall under the defamation defence of fair comment.
“At the time of writing, I was doing my journalistic duties. As a columnist, I had a serious professional responsibility . . . I have always acted responsibly,” Davy said.
Under cross-examination by Moonilal’s attorney Larry Lalla, Davy admitted that she did not take steps to verify the accuracy of the online publication.