Prime Minister Lamothe needs to focus
on Helping Haiti
As a part of President Martelly's government, it would seem that Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe would have more important issues to deal with than taking legal action against the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Haiti-Observateur for an article it published questioning a government-backed takeover of a bankrupt Haitian telecommunication firm and the subsequent sale of that firm.
Haiti and its proud people are still struggling to recover from the ca-taclysmic earthquake of January 2010, is dealing with an ongoing cholera outbreak that claims lives every month, a new academic year set to begin in two weeks, and legislative elections set to take place in the next few months. Focusing his attention on a Haitian publication with legal maneuvering in an attempt to intimidate it is not only irresponsible, it detracts from more important, pressing issues that need his attention.
However, what we find most egregious about this lawsuit is that it's not the first of its kind by Martelly's government in an effort to silence the media that seeks to protect the people from corruption and greed.
In January, a Miami law firm representing Haiti’s President Martelly sent letters to Orlando-based website Defend Haiti complaining about "false assertions" in its articles about funding for the Haitian government's education initiatives. The letters asked for retractions and threatened legal action if "this smear campaign" continues.
The Haitian government dropped the matter after the website's attorney responded, refuting the allegations of defamation and pointing out that Defend Haiti's reporting was protected under U.S. law, according to Defend Haiti's founder, Samuel Maxime.
The problem that Lamothe faces in suing the Haiti-Observateur is that United States law is quite clear when it comes to media reporting and public officials. Yes, Prime Minister Lamothe has the legal right to make a claim but based on a 1964 ruling involving the New York Times, it was determined that public officials could 'win a suit for libel only if they could demonstrate 'actual malice' on the part of reporters or publishers. In that case, 'actual malice' was defined as 'knowledge that the information was false' or that it was published 'with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.'
Prime Minister Lamothe may need to be reminded that his action re-presents the Haitian government, and President Martelly. He was entrusted with a great responsibility to help rebuild a struggling nation and take care of its people. He should focus his energy and efforts on fighting corruption and serving the people, rather than fighting a newspaper that is the oldest Haitian publication in the United States. If he prefers a fight, perhaps he could best serve the people by arming the Haitian National Police force to combat gangs killing innocent people every day in the nation's capital city Port-au-Prince.
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