John Saldivar attacks free media (Patrick Andrews and Plus TV)
Belmopan-based Plus TV is being sued for libel by the area representative, Minister John Saldivar over a response made by Rise and Shine co-host, Patrick Andrews to a question posed by Minister of Education, Patrick Faber late last year. Now, libel suits are considered par for the course to media houses, but Louis Wade and Andrews have gone public on why the legal challenge is heading to the courts. Saldivar, says Wade, made a number of requests to avoid court action, but at least one he said he could not live with. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Popular talk show hosts Luis Wade and Patrick Andrews of Plus TV’s Rise and Shine morning show have been named as litigants in a lawsuit brought by Minister of National Security John Saldivar. The suit at hand is the result of a conversation between Andrews and his guest Minister of Education Patrick Faber, during an episode in which he opined on the disbursal of public funds in Saldivar’s constituency. Andrews’ statement has since been construed as fact, prompting Saldivar to seek redress for libel.
Luis Wade, Managing Director, Plus TV
“I was out of the country and at that time Mr. Andrews was holding over the entire show. And so, essentially, this case arises out of what the claimant is saying, that there were specific statements that were mentioned, by this very same individual, that he considers to be defamatory.”
Those remarks, according to Saldivar, in an affidavit prepared by Courtenay Coye LLP, infer that he is engaged in corruption and, by extension, criminal activity as an elected official. Prior to being served with a summons, Wade was asked to honor a list of requests made by the area representative in lieu of legal action. Those demands, he says, are unrealistic.
“He was very specific as to what he wanted in the initial request. So in the initial request there were four conditions. The first condition was an apology in the same manner that it was given, so it would have been on Rise and Shine, which for us as a media house with Judeo Christian principles, even if you have not done something wrong or even if an associate has not done something wrong our Christian principle is if a person feels that they have been hurt [then] there is no problem to apologize. And so this is not an issue, as we see it, as it pertains to retraction in itself. The problem existed in the three other requests that came with [it], if we did not want to go to court there were three other requests that we had a problem with One was that considering that we did not see the statements as libelous in any way, he wanted that no other such types of statements be made and this is a live talk show with call-in guests, call-in people, as well as co-hosts going live. And so, essentially, since our lawyers and our media house believe and now that it’s not libelous it’s difficult to agree, okay such comments cannot be aired again.”
Likewise, Wade says that on more than one occasions Saldivar requested Andrews’ removal as co-host of Rise and Shine.
“The minister has voiced on numerous occasions that he would like one of the co-hosts of the program, specifically Patrick Jason Andrews, off the show to be removed. Certainly because Plus Television is an independent media house and by every right and reason we are the ones who should determine who our hosts and our journalists are and so we found it to be particularly problematic but it has been ongoing and I think it was shortly after one of the last requests was made that it began to escalate to where it is now. And so, essentially, we feel that to not go to court then he wants already financial compensation [and] those things, I believe, are settled in court. So especially if now we have to negotiate with a person who we know from the very beginning, we know what he wants, which is to remove a particular person off the show.”
The crux of the matter, says Wade, is an opinion that was shared by a talk show host on the actions and decisions of a public figure as it pertains to fiduciary duties.
“This has to do with an individual that clearly states at the beginning of his sentence that this is an opinion and not a statement of fact and it is a comment on how a public figure distributes or uses or creates policy in the spending of public monies. And so, I believe that the entire nation of Belize should be interested in this case because it is an opinion on how a public, government official spends the people’s money.”
While a court date, as well as remedies, remain to be set, Patrick Andrews has retained the services of Musa and Balderamos. Plus TV, on the other hand, is in the process of securing its legal representation. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.