Former chief executive officer of the Estate Management Business Development Company Ltd (EMBDC), Seebalack Singh, has been awarded more than $.5 million in compensation in a libel lawsuit brought against the Trinidad Express.
In delivering the 51-page judgment in the San Fernando High Court yesterday, Justice Frank Seepersad was critical of the standard of journalism in T&T.
Singh, through his attorney Prakash Deonarine, filed the lawsuit in relation to two investigative stories published on April 22, 2013 and June 30, 2013 which suggested some wrongdoing on his part which resulted in his resignation.
Singh, who subsequently lost his job at the First Citizens Bank where he began working after resigning from EMBDC, sued the newspaper, an editor and two senior journalists who wrote the articles. The defendants argued the matters in the articles were of significant public interest and they met the standards of responsible journalism.
Describing the actions of one of the reporters as reckless, the judge found the journalists "failed to discharge the onerous obligation that rested on their shoulders as investigative journalists and their focus was on character assassination and scandal."
Seepersad said: "Character assassination should never be the focal point of any investigative piece of journalism."
In awarding $450,000 plus interest in aggravated and general damages, the judge said he considered the allegations against Singh were grave and impacted in a material way on his integrity, honour, professional competence and his reputation. Saying "more likely than not," the first article was the reason why he lost his job at the bank, the judge also awarded $100,000 in exemplary damages. Singh was also awarded costs.
Attorney Faarees Hosein, who represented the defendants, asked for a 21-day stay of execution which was granted.