Moonilal awarded $500,000 in defamation case

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.

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