Premier McKeeva Bush issued lawsuits claiming defamation against two journalists, a radio station owner and a radio talk show caller earlier this month.
Those sued included Nicky Watson, trading as Cayman News Service; journalist Wendy Ledger; Hurley’s Entertainment Corporation and its owner Randy Merren; and West Bay resident and former legislator Daphne Orrett. All were sued as a result of comments made in May 2011 on the radio or published on the World Wide Web.
Ms Watson and Ms Ledger were sued with regard to comments made by readers on 19 May, 2011, about an article Cayman News Service had published. Of the four examples given in the Statement of Claim of defamatory words published by Cayman News Service, only one actually mentioned Mr. Bush’s name. That example read: “People like Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and McKeeva Bush don’t like it when people speak their minds or exercise their basic rights because it puts the same fear in to them like they are putting into you.”
The lawsuit states those published comments and the others cited in the Statement of Claim were defamatory.
“[I]n their natural and ordinary meaning, the said words meant and were understood to mean that the Plaintiff is guilty of numerous serious offenses, namely that: i) the Plantiff’s behaviour is comparable to terrorists; ii) he victimises or will victimise civil servants; iii) he is opposed to people’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech.”
The Statement of Claim suggests “the Defendant acted out of spite and with reckless disregard for the truth and in failing to ascertain from the Plaintiff the truth regarding the aforementioned” and that comments were “known by the Defendants to be false” and were “willingly calculated by the Defendants to damage the Plaintiff…”
The lawsuit suggests that since millions of users have access to the World Wide Web and the words complained of, it can be inferred that a large and unquantifiable number of people read the publication.
“In particular, the Defendants transmitted and published, or caused to be transmitted and published, the publication to the citizens of the Cayman Islands.”
The lawsuits against Hurley’s Entertainment, Mr. Merren and Ms Orrett stem from Ms Orrett’s on-air remarks made during the course of the Cross Talk radio talk programme on Rooster 101.9 on 17 May, 2011, and 24 May, 2011, and then posted for replay on the Hurley’s Entertainment website.
“The publications were defamatory and in their natural, normal and ordinary meaning, the said words were meant and were understood to mean, inter alia: a) The Plaintiff raised funds to assist the Pilgrim Holiness Church from gambling and illicit sources; b) The Plaintiff is hypocritical and unworthy to speak in the Church; c) The Plaintiff brought pews in the Church in a questionable or irregular manner; d) The Plaintiff is to be likened to biblical characters Ananias and Saphirah.”
The action against Ms Orrett stems from the same comments, which the Statement of Claims suggest “severely injured the Plaintiff in his credit, character and reputation and in a way of his profession, business and office, and has brought into public scandal, odium and contempt, not only in the Cayman Islands, but also internationally.”
All three lawsuits, which seek unspecified damages, state that the Defendants refused to publish an apology despite being requested by the Plaintiff to do so.