Haitian-American reporter defames Haitian prime minister, judge says

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  • February 20, 2013

By Zach Dyer

A federal judge in Miami, Fla. said that a Haitian-American journalist defamed Haiti’s prime minister when he reported on the Caribbean country’s purchase of a telecommunications company, reported the Associated Press on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and businessman Patrice Baker sued Leo Joseph, reporter for the New York-based newspaper Haiti-Observateur, for his reporting about the government acquisition of Haitel, an indebted telecomm company.

According to the default final judgment signed by U.S. Judge Ursula Ungaro on Feb. 6, Joseph published “outrageous, scandalous” comments about the prime minister’s role in the sale of Haitel. In his reporting from August and September 2012, Joseph alleged that Lamothe and Baker arranged and improperly benefitted from the sale of the company according to AP.

Joseph claimed he was never informed of Baker and Lamothe’s lawsuit or the court’s default ruling when he failed to appear in court. The journalist said he stands by his reporting, according to the AP.

As part of the judgment, Ungaro banned Joseph from publishing anything about the plaintiffs “in either their professional, personal or political lives,” according to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Correction: The original version of this post mistakenly used language that suggested the lawsuit mentioned was a criminal case. The post was corrected on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.