OMG general manager defends stance on defamatory advertising

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The general manager of OBSERVER Media Group, Caecilia Derrick, has defended the company’s decision not to air three false and defamatory advertisements which the ruling Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) sought to have played on the privately-run radio station.
Derrick said the company reserves the right to make that decision. And, in this case, the company obtained legal advice that the advertisements could not be used on air.
At the same time, Derrick said even though she advised the labour party’s media coordinator, Neil Butler, that three out of the many advertising materials he sent earlier this month were rejected based on legal advice to the company, the company did not even have to go that far in explaining anything, but it did.
“We are a private company.  I don’t know that we owe anybody an explanation.  We have a right to reject material that we do not approve of, for good reason,” she added.
She spoke out yesterday following a statement by the ABLP which accused the media company of censoring advertisements from the Gaston Browne-led administration and doing so without reason.
Derrick said she rejects the labour party’s assertion that the media group should have played the advertisements because the party said its own lawyers had approved them.
And, she further rejected the political party’s suggestion that OBSERVER media should have played the ads just because other local media did so, albeit recklessly.
To be specific, one of the labour party’s advertisements states that a particular person from an opposition party engages in sexual exploitation of women and human trafficking among other charges.
The advertisement identifies the person by name as well. However, there is no criminal complaint or court record of this individual doing the things claimed. And further, that individual was never arrested or charged with any such crimes.
Even if that person had been charged for these sexual offences, under the Sexual Offences Act, the media is barred from publishing the name or any information that could lead to the disclosure of an accused person’s identity in such cases if he has not been convicted. This also makes the advertisement defamatory.
The party’s leader, Gaston Browne, who has since listened to the advertisements sent to OBSERVER media by his party, and who also made public statements about the matter without fact checking, subsequently told OBSERVER media that he agrees with Derrick’s position not to play the ads.
But, he was not his usual candid, frank self when he explained where his team went wrong in constructing the advertisement or when it came public with unfounded assertions of biasness, partisanship and censorship.
Neither did he state whether the party will retract its unfounded report made to the official observers of Antigua and Barbuda’s upcoming general elections.
He only said, “I think it was a genuine misunderstanding involving the individuals who are operating our media facility. They did not see it in that way, but I think that out of an abundance of caution that OBSERVER’s position is reasonable.”
The prime minister said he had not heard the advertisements until OBSERVER media approached him about his and the labour party’s statements made yesterday regarding the matter.
Meanwhile, in response to the ABLP’s claim that the OBSERVER Media Group violated its legal responsibility to the party as an advertising company, Derrick said there was no intent to do this.
She noted that the parties were both sending advertisements for airplay and had asked that their individual ads not be played back to back.
The general manager acknowledged that by accident, when she was reaching out to the labour party regarding a set of ads on March 6 to enquire when the party wanted them to be played, she mistakenly included Tabor on the email with Butler.
Derrick said that as she continued her duties, within minutes she recognised the error and emailed both Tabor and Butler, apologising and explaining that the email was intended for the labour party only.

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