Spoken word can be libellous

Slander is the spoken word, but Justice Frank Seepersad yesterday delivered a lawsuit in San Fernando in which he struck out a defence by a radio station which submitted that the defence, led by Senior Counsel and former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, should have been pleaded on the basis of slander and not libel.

On behalf of Junior Sammy and Jusamco suing MORE FM Radio Limited for libel, attorneys for the station submitted that the issue stemmed from words spoken.

Libel relates to the written word that offends and slander is in reference to words spoken such as via the medium of the radio or television.

But agreeing with Maharaj, Justice Seepersad ruled in his judgment that the formats in which statements can be reduced so as to be considered as being in a permanent form, has evolved and extended beyond the sphere of written or typed text.

As a result, audio, visual and electronic formats are capable of having a degree of permanency that transcends geographical boarders.

Seepersad stated therefore, “In this context, the law in relation to libel and slander can no longer be viewed through the myopic lens of written word versus the spoken word, as technological advances have created circumstances by virtue of which the spoken words can easily encrypted into a permanent irreversible format which can be accessed from a global platform.” The judge stated that having regard to how Maharaj has pleaded the case on Junior Sammy’s behalf, he cannot accept the radio station’s contention that the case is improperly premised. He ordered the station refrains from further publishing and broadcasting the offending words. The judge reserved ruling on costs after the substantive hearing of the trial of the case is completed.


"Spoken word can be libellous"

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