Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Trials » Amandala hit with $8,000 libel verdict
Aug 10, 2001

Amandala hit with $8,000 libel verdict

Story Picture
The killing of a Guatemalan civilian by the B.D.F. near the border in June of 1999 was a controversial case from the start, but things got stickier for the Amandala when the newspaper’s account of the incident landed it in court for libel. Today Supreme Court Justice Samuel Awich ruled that the story, which identified the wrong man as the killer, was libellous and awarded that man, Sergeant Aladdin Herrera, eight thousand dollars in damages. In making his judgement against Amandala publisher Evan X Hyde and editor Russel Vellos, Justice Awich noted that neither the two defendants nor the story’s author, Melvin Flores, acted with malice. But under Belizean law the absence of malice is no defence. “The accurate reporting of a falsehood is no excuse in law, ” said Awich. Flores had testified that residents of the village of Arenal who witnessed the shooting told him that Herrera was the soldier who pulled the trigger. But at a subsequent commission of inquiry, those same witnesses contradicted what they allegedly told Flores and identified a different soldier as the shooter. Amandala compounded its error by insisting its version of events was accurate and refused Herrera’s request for a correction and apology. Neither Hyde nor Vellos was in court today for the verdict. Flores, while accepting the decision, remained unapologetic about his reporting.

Melvin Flores, Reporter, Amandala

“I feel that the judge had a job to do, and he had a guideline to follow by the laws of Belize, which we the media have to abide under. Whatever his decision was, I think was done with precise knowledge in law and the verdict was his decision. The media in Belize, we have an obligation to the people of Belize. And many times the only information we have is what our society, our people have to offer us. Many times when we are reporting we meet a solid wall when it comes to the authorities, they don’t provide us with enough information. And when the people speak to us, most of them, especially when it comes to villagers, they speak to us with sincerity. And we as reporters, we have an obligation to listen to what they have to say and to voice their opinions.”

Flores told News 5 that he still believes in the veracity of his reporting and that those witnesses who testified at the commission of inquiry changed their stories out of intimidation. In addition to the eight thousand dollars that the Amandala must pay to Herrera, the newspaper will also have to pay Herrera’s legal fees, which should run between five and ten thousand dollars. Herrera was represented by Dean Barrow while Francis Fonseca appeared for Hyde and Vellos.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

Advertise Here

You must be logged in to post a comment Login