CNN claims Poleon apology defames them!


Will CNN be next to sue the island’s declared media “terrorist” for defamation based on his widely circulated apology?


It should come as no surprise that a sorry apology for an independent nation should boast a sorry apology for a government; a sorry apology for a parliamentary opposition; a sorry apology for a bar association; a sorry apology for a media association; a sorry apology for a chamber of commerce—collectively representative of a populace incapable of appreciating the bloody sacrifices that had released them from the shackles of slavery. In short, a shameful apology for an independent free people!

My weekend rant over HTS has evidently tickled some sensibilities. There has not been a voice contradictory of my easily verifiable statements—at any rate at time of writing—save one god-radio personality who, typically, has expressed the view that my criticism of local “media workers” was perhaps a “little harsh.”

Let me quickly add that I’ve also been known to shower praise on the Saint Lucia media, if only at a time when it served the people not necessarily homogenous information but enough to allow them to arrive at their own reasonable conclusions.

The situation today, as I’ve said before, is horrifying almost beyond words: for the most part our media are nothing more than dysfunctional distributors of obvious rubbish, usually from the spitting mouths of politicians of various colors. More often than not, there are no reality checks, no references to earlier statements no longer in harmony with their latest outpourings.

Timothy Poleon’s internationally discussed apology-on-demand throws more dirt on the image of our spineless media. The popular view is that he did not himself compose it, that he succumbed to pressure and agreed that by reading an Internet article on-air he had “made it his own.”

Small wonder that many consider the apology an insult to the national intelligence, such as it is.

Consider this from the source that had started it all, Caribbean News Now: “Assuming that the apology was in fact required purely on the strength of Poleon’s reading of our article in question, and no other statements were involved that may have been made on-air at the time, this must surely be the first case where a journalist has been forced to apologize for something that was never said in the first place.”

CNN cited a particular line from Poleon’s repeated mea culpa: “Essentially I stated in respect of Mr. [Alva] Baptiste [sic], among other things that present-day government officials who were then in opposition, supplied the United States government with false information, in a successful bid to discredit a then minister of government.”

For crying out loud, “Baptiste among other things?” I hasten also to point out the above punctuation is not mine.

Actually, the original CNN article does not contain the line for which Poleon continues to apologize so profusely via two or three self-flagellating sections of the accommodating local media.

The verifiable truth is that while the CNN article does refer to unidentified “members” of the then opposition Labour Party, it neither states nor implies, in my opinion, such members were election candidates, let alone that they are ministers in the current SLP government.

The latest CNN piece on the controversy also mentions “two individuals . . . neither of whom were [sic] actually named anywhere in our original article, nevertheless claimed they were therein accused of past criminal conduct.”

CNN further asserts: “This is also misguided. What we stated was that two unnamed government officials . . . have a known history of violent sexual abuse.” The individuals, CNN observes, “took ownership of this assertion.”

The same article also references government officials against whom, it claims, “alleged respective victims and the director of public prosecutions” had before the courts laid charges of rape.

As if taunting its targets, CNN asks: “Why has no approach whatsoever been made to Caribbean News Now by the individuals allegedly defamed, or by their attorneys, seeking to correct the information contained in the article in question and requiring an apology or a retraction from us?” It is a question most thinking Saint Lucians have been asking the local legal kilibwis without sensible response.

Perhaps tongue in cheek, CNN goes on:“One might in fact argue that Poleon has defamed Caribbean News Now, by stating our article contained statements which were highly defamatory, when in fact they were not, for the reasons outlined.”

Obviously, Timothy Poleon’s apology is spawning increasingly shocking revelations all over the Internet. It should be remembered the matter has not gone to court and that Timothy Poleon’s apology was scripted by hardly disinterested authors hell-bent on taking advantage of his circumstances.

The meanings they’ve given certain words are their strictly their own. As are the arcane interpretations of certain sentences, reminiscent of that memorable 2-day argument in the House when the then Speaker was given a multiplicity of interpretations for “as soon as convenient.”

The most vociferous and fierce on the occasion are well known for their disdain and contempt, for strictly political reasons, toward the RCI newscaster publicly declared in 2005 a “media terrorist.”

Nevertheless, if he had invited my opinion on the matter, I would not have discouraged Poleon from reading on-air the near-illiterate apology for an article that the whole world knows he had not himself written, and which in every paragraph contains matters relating to governance, to our nation’s public image and so on.

Indeed, not to have passed on such circulating information to Saint Lucians might well have been regarded in Poleon’s circumstances as a dereliction of duty.  But more than that: I would’ve so advised Poleon, based on my continuing faith in the intelligence of his listeners, to say nothing of their natural ability to smell a rat—regardless of how robed!

Conversely, my faith in the law being what it is, had I been in Poleon’s position there would have been no apology. I would’ve required the complaining parties to convince a judge that by reading an Internet article of such obvious public interest I had sullied their presumed pristine reputations.

I have no doubt this matter is a long way from over—if only because of the threat it poses to freedom of expression in our country, and our besieged region.

In any event, to quote the cherished words of the legendary Supreme Court Justice Brandeis: “Sunlight is the most powerful of disinfectants!”

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