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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Haitian-American reporter defames Haitian prime minister, judge says



A federal judge in Miami, Fla. said that a Haitian-American journalist defamed Haiti’s prime minister when he reported on the Caribbean country’s purchase of a telecommunications company, reported the Associated Press on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and businessman Patrice Baker sued Leo Joseph, reporter for the New York-based newspaper Haiti-Observateur, for his reporting about the government acquisition of Haitel, an indebted telecomm company.

According to the default final judgment signed by U.S. Judge Ursula Ungaro on Feb. 6, Joseph published “outrageous, scandalous” comments about the prime minister’s role in the sale of Haitel. In his reporting from August and September 2012, Joseph alleged that Lamothe and Baker arranged and improperly benefitted from the sale of the company according to AP.

Joseph claimed he was never informed of Baker and Lamothe’s lawsuit or the court’s default ruling when he failed to appear in court. The journalist said he stands by his reporting, according to the AP. 

As part of the judgment, Ungaro banned Joseph from publishing anything about the plaintiffs “in either their professional, personal or political lives,” according to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. 

Correction: The original version of this post mistakenly used language that suggested the lawsuit mentioned was a criminal case. The post was corrected on Thursday, Feb. 21. 

 



3 comments

 
Zach Dyer wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Thank you

Thank you both for your comments and observations. We've made the necessary adjustments to our post, sorry for the mistakes.

 
Guest wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

found LIABLE

Joseph was found liable for having defamed the plaintiffs, not guilty. While Florida does indeed still have criminal defamation laws on the books, this was a civil action. A party can only be adjudged 'guilty' in a criminal proceeding. Please correct this article and be more careful using legal terms in the future.

 
Nick Hentoff wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

This post needs to be revised to correct errors.

First, this was a civil defamation lawsuit and not a criminal case so no one was found "guilty," and there was no "sentence." Second, The only reason the plaintiffs' prevailed in this case is because they obtained a default judgment after the defendant failed to answer the complaint. The Judge never had an opportunity to conduct an independent review or assessment of the facts. Third, the AP reported that the defendant claimed he was never served with a copy of the complaint and that he stands by his allegations. Finally, the language of the restraining order was written by the plaintiffs' lawyers and not by the Judge.

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