Bordelais director speaks out!

Bordelais Correctional Facility deputy director Victoria Alcide has won her defamation case against two media houses.

The last several months have not been easy for Deputy Director of Corrections Victoria Alcide. On top of having what might be considered one of the toughest jobs in Saint Lucia—second in command at the nation’s only bursting-at-the-seams correctional facility—Alcide has been in a court battle to save her reputation. And it seems that it is finally over.
On Wednesday this week two media houses in Saint Lucia—Helen Television System and Radio St Lucia—were ordered by a judge to pay damages of $240,000 each to Deputy Director Alcide. The defamation case surrounded a letter that was circulated in August last year making allegations that the director engaged in sexual relations with inmates. Though the letter was unsigned, the contents of the letter were disseminated via the two media houses.
The STAR spoke with Alcide, who has been in the Corrections field for 21 years, about the case. She recalled the circumstances surrounding the letter that was also sent to ministerial departments.
“No one contacted me to ask me what I had to say about it but they published it,” she recalls, adding that she still does not know what fuelled the story.
“I was shocked, in disbelief,” she said of the contents of the letter,  “because I had not done anything in my life to deserve what the person had written about me.”
She recalls driving home from work on the day in question and receiving several calls, including one from the Director of Corrections, Hilary Herman who informed her that the contents of the letter had made it onto the local news.
“I needed to see it for myself so the following morning I tuned in and there it was big and bold. I was angry and confused as to why someone would do this. What hurt the most is that they must have believed that they were airing a fact. They didn’t even have the courtesy to call to find out if I had anything to say about it. It was like I didn’t have a voice or even a right. No one has called me to this day,” she said.
Alcide explained that right away she took steps to let the station know that what they did was wrong.  A retraction of the letter by one TV station  was not enough.  She would later initiate legal proceedings.
When the judgment came down Alcide said she was overwhelmed.
“I felt that finally justice was being served,” she said.
“I hope this sets an example not just for the media but for ordinary citizens as well. In St Lucia some of us tend to think that we can say what we want about someone and it’s okay. It’s not okay,” she said.
She remembers that going to work after the letter first surfaced was a test of her courage. But she had faith in her work record.
“The staff knows me so I was not concerned about the staff believing this story because they know and there was no gossiping at the facility, like inmates passing remarks because the inmates also know I am professional. My dealings with inmates
have always been professional so I was really confused.”
She said however the reaction from the general public was harder to deal with.
“I have been humiliated many times,” she recalls. “I have had persons threaten to tear the uniform off me. People driving are ready to knock me off the road just so they can come alongside my vehicle and look at me in disgust. People asking me how many of the inmates slept with me today. It has been a long road. I keep telling myself that I have done nothing to deserve this and I remind myself of what my late dad would say, ‘keep your chin up’.
Yesterday on RCI’s NewsSpin Alcide’s case was the hot topic as talk show host Rick Wayne commented on the issue.
“It was a shock to me the amount that they have been required to pay. It is record-setting,” said Wayne. “I was equally shocked with the details of the case. There was an arrogance in the broadcasting of the item. Some horrible allegations were made against a woman and there was no evidence at all supportive of the allegations and the people involved did not even bother to put in a defense, so there was contempt all around. I am surprised that we don’t have more of these cases because this is libel and slander 101 . . .to publish the contents of an anonymous letter that egregiously affects someone’s reputation is looking for trouble. Even when the letter is signed properly the onus is on the journalist to go out and validate it.”
Wayne said that there was a lot of pressure especially from callers to shows who try to hold radio stations to task for not airing certain things.
“A lot of it is tied up with politics,” he admitted.     “A scoop is always important but to get yourself in trouble is not worth the slackness.”
For his part NewsSpin host Timothy Poleon called on all St Lucian journalists to act responsibly.
“No media outlet wants to find themselves in that situation,” said Poleon, adding that he sympathized with the media outlets when he heard the news of the judgment. Poleon turned the attention to the current politically-charged climate where media personnel are sent press releases and dictated to as to how it should be carried.
“There are not lessons in this only for reporters and journalists,” he said, “the callers to the various programs who believe that just because they are hiding behind a telephone they can say anything about anyone  . . . and once I interject I am biased . . . we have to be responsible.”

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