Radio station bans opposition legislator as PM files lawsuit

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The OBSERVER Media Group says it has taken a decision not to broadcast any live coverage of any statement made by an opposition legislator after the group was sued by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

The media group in a statement published in its newspaper, THE DAILY OBSERVER, noted that “due to numerous related issues, the OBSERVER Media Group has taken the decision that it will no longer accommodate the UPP’s Public Relations Officer, Tabor, on live programming until he furnishes the company with a waiver and indemnity”.

It said that the United Progressive Party official “will, however, be allowed to participate in non-live media broadcasts and publications.

“As a responsible media organisation, we reserve the right to implement these restrictions on any politician or contributor, regardless of political affiliation, that the organisation deems too risky.”

The OBSERVER Media Group said earlier this week it had been served with a lawsuit filed in the High Court on July 6, 2017 in which Prime Minister Browne is seeking damages, including aggravated damages and costs on the indemnity basis.

He is accusing Tabor of making defamatory statements about him on an OBSERVER Radio programme on January 4.

The OBSERVER said that the legal battle is linked to comments Tabor made on OBSERVER Radio regarding the Prime Minister, his wife Maria Bird-Browne and her charity, Share Incorporated and its partnership with government in a Venture Capital Fund which was announced last year.

“As a result of the publication of the words complained of, the Claimant has been very severely injured in his character and reputation as Prime Minister and personally, and that of his wife and family, and has been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt including public ridicule in at least two calypsos,” according to the lawsuit.

“The accusations are very personal to the Claimant and the nature of the attacks and the manner and tone of the Defendant’s accusations have aggravated the injury caused to the Claimant. They have led to the Claimant being the subject to verbal condemnation and ridicule by some members of the public who have repeatedly called into radio programmes on OBSERVER and Crusader Radio to vilify and condemn the Claimant,” it added.

Prime Minister Browne is also requesting an injunction to prevent OBSERVER Radio and Tabor from ever repeating the defamatory claims in the future.

In the lawsuit, the Prime Minister alleges that OBSERVER Radio neglected to reach out to him for his side of the story.

The Second Defendant [OBSERVER Radio] permitted or caused the allegations to be broadcasted without any injury or investigations on whether the allegations were true or not, without any system for verification or prior contemporaneous inquiry to ascertain whether or not the allegations are or may be false.”

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