Defamed journalist wins case

2015-12-18 10:46
Gary Govindsamy

Gary Govindsamy (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - A great victory for journalists and for freedom of the press.

This was the reaction of the head of Radio Lotus FM News, Gary Govindsamy, when he learnt yesterday that a magistrate has ordered that controversial businessman Sunnay Gayadin must pay him R50 000 in damages, plus interest, for defamation.

Durban civil court magistrate T. Fikeni ruled that Gayadin had defamed the senior editor in 2009 by saying he took bribes, and further injured his dignity by swearing at him, using a number of choice slurs.

According to evidence led in the trial, Gayadin swore at Govindsamy after he declined to broadcast a story given to him by Gayadin after establishing that it was inaccurate.

The story related to the alleged arrest on arrival at the airport from India of Bollywood artist Shaan, who allegedly owed Gayadin money.

Gayadin, who was involved with the entertainment industry at the time, said he had gone to the airport with the sheriff armed with an urgent application for the artist’s arrest and claimed it was carried out.

Govindsamy testified that in December 2009 he was the executive producer for a current affairs programme, News Break.

Thabo Mofokeng was his supervisor and acting regional editor.

Govindsamy said Gayadin contacted him on December 5, 2009, and told him he wanted to be interviewed with regard to the arrest and detention of a Bollywood artist, Shaan. He wanted it broadcast that Shaan’s shows had been cancelled.

Govindsamy declined when police would not confirm the story.

Subsequently Mofokeng told him that Gayadin had said that Govindsamy was “on somebody’s payroll”.

When Govindsamy spoke to Gayadin telephonically and explained why he didn’t broadcast the story, the businessman swore at him, saying to him: “Your mother’s p**s, who you f***ng spoke to.”

He used other derogatory terms in Hindi referring to Govindsamy as a “ma**ach*d” (motherf****r) and told him he will “buy Lotus FM radio station and he will be the first black mandraji (South Indian) bastard to be fired”.

Govindsamy testified that Gayadin said he would see him at the Lotus FM meeting on Monday and would slap him in front of other people.

Govindsamy said he felt humiliated.

Govindsamy told The Witness yesterday he regarded the magistrate’s decision to award him damages as a major victory for all journalists.

“This is a great victory for freedom of the press,” he said.

He hoped the judgment would deter people like Gayadin, who “think that just because they have a lot of money they can run roughshod over humble journalists and tell them how to report”, he said.

“Had I covered the story as he [Gayadin] wanted me to, I would have been fired because it was inaccurate. He was trying to force us to write a totally false and inaccurate story. I used my journalist senses and realised it was not the truth,” said Govindsamy.

He said the case had taken its toll on his health. He recently suffered from a heart ailment.

“Its been a tough time,” he added.

He thanked everyone in the media who has supported him throughout the ordeal, as well as his attorney, Anand Nepaul.

Govindsamy sued Gayadin for a total of R100 000 in damages but the court awarded half the amount, plus interest of 15,5% from the date on which summons was issued to date of final payment.

Gayadin was also ordered to pay the legal costs.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  defamation  |  court

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