Judge dismisses Inshan Ishmael’s lawsuit against newspaper

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Inshan Ishmael.

A HIGH COURT judge has dismissed the defamation claim of businessman Inshan Ishmael against the Trinidad Express newspapers for four articles published about him in 2017.

On Wednesday, Justice Frank Seepersad said the articles, which claimed Ishmael was being investigated for alleged terrorism financing, were not defamatory in nature but were “fair, measured and balanced.”

He also found, while not the product of investigative journalism as contended by the newspaper, the articles fell under the heading of responsible journalism and were justifiable.

In his claim, the political and social activist, who also operates his own broadcast company, IBN, contended the series of articles published in January 2017 were baseless, false, and malicious.

The articles claimed Ishmael had been red-flagged in connection with attempts to wire money to foreign organisations allegedly linked to terrorism. Ishmael expressed concern over the effect the articles had on his reputation.

Seepersad said the four articles were hinged to the information in a letter from the police Financial Investigations Bureau and revealed a scenario that raised legitimate concerns on the enforcement of laws, the compliance with treaty obligations, the consequences for the banking sector, and the stain on Trinidad and Tobago’s reputation.

Seepersad also said the articles also contained Ishmael’s denials and his distancing of himself from any terrorist involvement.

The judge spoke of the importance of investigative journalism in a functional democracy.

“It can expose corruption, promote accountability, unmask abuses of power, illuminate dysfunction, and highlight wrongdoing.

“This brand of journalism operates as an informal check on the manner in which power and influence are exercised and provides scrutiny over the effectiveness and efficacy of actions purportedly undertaken in the fulfilment of the public good.”

He said information, and not sensationalism, should be the guiding premise behind any investigative publication.

Ishmael was, at the trial in February, represented by Reginald Armour, SC, Ravindra Nanga, and Elena Araujo while Farees Hosein represented the newspaper, its former reporter, and its editor in chief all of whom were named as defendants in the claim.