Seychelles Court of Appeal upholds defamation judgement for 2016 article in Seychelles Weekly
Seychelles' courts' building 'Palais de Justice' at Ile du Port, which houses the top courts. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles Court of Appeal has maintained the judgement that an article published by the Seychelles Weekly newspaper on former Minister Charles Bastienne was defamatory.
The Court of Appeal, comprising of Oagile Bethuel Dingake, Fiona Robinson and Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza rendered its judgement on Friday on the case that dates back to 2016.
In an article on December 1, 2016, the Seychelles Weekly newspaper reported that in October 2016, Bastienne, who was then the Minister for Internal Affairs, received the sum of SCR122,500 from the chairperson of a Nepalese recruitment agency named United Manpower Agency in return for the recruitment of Nepalese personnel for the Seychelles Police and Prison Services.
The newspaper reported that the money was paid through a representative of a local recruiting agency called Ligi's Agency and a security firm -- Marpol Security Services -- in which the newspaper claimed Bastienne owns interests.
Seychelles Weekly is a newspaper that since its inception has supported the opposition in the island nation in the western Indian Ocean.
Bastienne filed a claim for defamation within the Supreme Court of Seychelles against Robert Ernesta, an editor of the Seychelles Weekly, together with a printing company -- Printec Press Holding.
The trial judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Seegobin Nunkoo, ruled in favour of Bastienne in July 2018 and held that the article was defamatory. Bastienne was awarded SCR 600,000 as damages on the premise that he had suffered trauma caused to him at his place of work, family and in society generally.
Ernesta who was dissatisfied with the Supreme Court decision appealed the ruling.
The Justices of the Court of Appeal said that "having failed to establish the defences of justification, qualified privilege and publication of a matter in the public interest, the appeal fails and is hereby dismissed."
The appeal failed on all grounds presented and the Court has ordered that the respondent (Bastienne) is awarded general damages in the amount of SCR 600,000 and the costs of this appeal. It also upheld the order of the Supreme Court as to costs in the suit before it, to the effect that the defendants are jointly and severally liable to pay the same to the plaintiff.
SNA contacted Ernesta, who declined to make a comment.
The sum awarded is the highest one so far for a defamation case against a newspaper.
The President of the Association of Media Practitioners in Seychelles (AMPS) Rassin Vannier said that "this sentence shows us that there is a need to review the law concerning defamation in Seychelles, because this sentence is extremely heavy and the message that is sent is to muzzle the press and deprive the country of freedom of expression. I'm afraid there will soon be no print media in the country."