“Attorney for Andrew Mason: ‘[…] These statements [from Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira] are misleading as they portray the impression to the ordinary, reasonable reader that our client is refusing to pay the commentators who worked the Jamaica matches and/or that our client is trying to defraud those commentators’…”
“Attorney for Wired868: ‘[…] We fail to see how a statement that is factually true can amount to defamation. Moreover, in any event we fail to see how the words used could, on any fair, reasonable and objective reading, convey the meaning and impression that your client is trying to defraud those commentators’…”
The following are legal letters from attorneys for Andrew Mason and Wired868 respectively, arising out of an original letter to the Wired868 editor written by West Indies cricket commentator Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira on payment issues for work done:
From Andrew Mason of Barbados, via attorney Codie Hinds:
We are instructed that on the 23rd day of February 2022, Wired868 published online an article titled ‘Reds Perreira: WI cricket commentators spent 2021 chasing Mason and Vibes Radio for payment’.
In that article, Mr Joseph Perreira (‘Mr Perreira’) stated inter alia that our client never indicated how much he would be paid for commentating the Test and T20 matches held in St Lucia against South Africa and Australia respectively. The exact words you reported were that: ‘He never provided that information throughout the matches against South Africa and Australia. And, in the end, we collectively decided that we would request a daily fee of US $75—well below the normal fee for a Test match.’
Our client, who contracted with Vibes Radio Dominica to supply the commentary for the matches, instructs us that he verbally communicated the fees for commentating the matches to Mr Perreira and that those said fees were discussed and agreed to between them before these matches were played.
We are further instructed that our client spoke directly to Mr Perreira regarding the role the latter would play in the commentary team and it was then that our client communicated the daily rate of US $75 to Mr Perreira.
During those discussions, Mr Perreira commented that the fee was low but subsequently agreed to provide his commentary. Again, these discussions took place prior to the matches being played.
Moreover, prior to the start of the matches our client communicated the daily rate for the provision of commentary to the Team Lead in St Lucia, Mr Claudius Emmanuel. Mr Perreira was part of the commentary team and this information would have been passed on to him.
In any event, even if this information was not relayed to Mr Perreira, Mr Emmanuel subsequently chaired a meeting for the commentary team on the 10th day of June, 2021—the first day of the first Test match against South Africa—in which sponsorship, fees and the number of stations taking the broadcast were discussed.
It is also no secret that a daily rate of US $75 was also proposed by our client and agreed to by commentators throughout the Caribbean. As such, not only are Mr Perreira’s statements false, but the ordinary, reasonable reader of these statements would come to the conclusion that he only learned of the fees for the engagement after he had provided the commentary for all of these matches and was therefore blindsided by our client.
Further, they would infer that our client was dishonest and/or shady in his dealings with Mr Perreira. It is on this basis that we have advised our client that these statements are defamatory.
Mr Perreira further stated in your article that ‘the five commentators of Klass FM in Jamaica are yet to be paid and their names have not been received by the rights holders in Dominica. My information is that they were never encouraged to send an invoice for work done on the two Pakistan Test matches in Jamaica’.
Our client instructs us that he contracted with the commentators to provide the commentary for the matches in Jamaica. Our client did not act as an agent of Vibes Radio, and as such Vibes Radio had no agreement with the commentators to settle their fees.
Further, it was agreed and understood between our client and those commentators that their fees would become due and payable once our client was paid from Vibes Radio. Please note that our client has not yet been paid by Vibes Radio for providing the commentary in Jamaica.
These statements are misleading as they portray the impression to the ordinary, reasonable reader that our client is refusing to pay the commentators who worked the Jamaica matches and/or that our client is trying to defraud those commentators.
Consequently, we have advised our clients that these statements are also defamatory. The highlighted statements have subjected our client to tremendous embarrassment and have affected his reputation as a businessman.
Accordingly, our client requests a published apology from you and seeks compensation for the damage done to his reputation. This letter serves as a letter before action. You are required to respond within fourteen (14) days of the date herein.
In the event of your failure to do so, we are instructed to pursue redress for our client in the Supreme Court of Barbados.
Please be guided accordingly
From Lasana Liburd, via attorney Jonathan Walker of Hamel-Smith & Co:
We are the attorneys-at-law for Mr Lasana Liburd and Wired868. Our clients have passed to us a copy of your letter dated 11th March in which you accuse our clients of defaming yours by the publication of an article entitled ‘Reds Perreira: WI cricket commentators spent 2021 chasing Mason and Vibes Radio for Payment’.
We have perused the article in question and do not agree with your suggestion that it contains any material that can reasonably be said to satisfy the test for defamation. We also note that the article in question was not written by our client but was penned by Mr Joseph Perreira, who our client was entitled to presume had intimate personal knowledge of the matters set out in the article.
Despite this, our client took the precaution of writing yours prior to solicit his views and comments on the matters raised by Mr Perreira. For reasons best known to himself, your client elected not to respond so as to correct what he now claims to be a factual inaccuracy.
Your letter takes issue with two statements in the article, the first of which concerns when Mr Perreira was informed of the daily fee for commentating while the second concerned the fact that five commentators have not yet been paid their fees for providing the commentary services.
In so far as this second statement is concerned, we note that you have not challenged the accuracy of the statement that ‘the five commentators of Klass FM in Jamaica are yet to be paid…’
Rather, you appear to accept that this statement is true, since you seek to justify the situation by the extremely clumsy explanation that it was your client (and not Vibes Radio) who contracted their services and that there was some agreement or understanding that their fees would only be due and payable once your client was paid by Vibes Radio—but that he had not as yet been paid for providing the commentary in Jamaica.
We fail to see how a statement that is factually true can amount to defamation.
Moreover, in any event we fail to see how the words used could, on any fair, reasonable and objective reading, convey the meaning and impression that your client is trying to defraud those commentators.
The article does nothing more than make the statement that the commentators had not been paid (again a situation which you appear to accept to be the truth) without attributing or even seeking to infer any reason or motive for this non-payment. There are any number of reasons why such a situation might be the case, and we see nothing in the article to suggest that it was to be attributed to fraud on the part of your client.
Turning to the statement regarding the timing of the agreement as to the quantum that was to be paid as a daily rate, we note that Mr Perreira’s recollection of the chain of events regarding the communication of the daily rate for the commentators stands in stark contrast to your client’s account. In this regard we note further that you have not set out any information that can objectively be used to verify your client’s claim that it was discussed prior to the matches being played.
Indeed, some of the matters upon which you rely appear to accept the possibility that the information was not passed to Mr Perreira.
In the circumstances, our client is not able to accept your client’s assertion that the statements made by Mr Perreira were not true.
However, even if it were the case that Mr Perreira’s recollection as to the timing when the quantum had been agreed was not accurate, we fail to see how this provides any basis for the inference that your client was dishonest or shady in his dealings with Mr Perreira. Such a conclusion simply is not something that the ordinary, reasonable and objective person would draw from the statements made by Mr Perreira.
Accordingly, we do not agree that either of the two statements are, or can be reasonably said to be, defamatory.
Moreover, even if there was scope for contending that the statements were prima facie defamatory (which we do not accept), our clients would in any event be entitled to rely on the defence of qualified privilege.
In particular, as you would no doubt appreciate, the sport of cricket is a matter of great regional significance, as are matters concerning the various aspects of the administration of the regional game. The statements made by Mr Perreira, who is a long-standing servant of the regional sport, raised important issues which our client had a moral and/or social duty to publish.
In this regard we note that there has been no suggestion that our clients acted with malice, and again we note that prior to publishing Mr Perreira’s article our client endeavoured to obtain your client’s input and comment—but regrettably your client neglected or failed or otherwise refused to provide such comment.
For all of the above reasons we are instructed to deny your client’s claim.
Finally, we note your threat to commence proceedings in the High Court of Barbados. In this regard we note that neither of our clients are resident within the jurisdiction of Barbados nor were they present in Barbados at the time when the article was published.
Furthermore, the servers that host the website are not located in Barbados and nothing in the article specifically targeted an audience in Barbados.
In the circumstances, should your client proceed with his threat of instituting proceedings against ours, we do not accept that the Barbadian courts would have the jurisdiction to hear such a claim.
Please be guided accordingly.
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