Editor cited for contempt of court

Kaieteur News
January 12, 2007

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One of Guyana 's most prominent news editors and journalist, Adam Harris, has been cited for contempt of court in relation to an article published in the December 24, 2006 issue of the Kaieteur News.

The contempt action was read to Harris by Justice BS Roy, when the popular journalist appeared in the High Court yesterday after he was advised to do so. The judge is contending that the matter of contempt stems from an article captioned, “When the courts legalise an illegality”.

The article referred to the granting of an interim ex-parte injunction allowing businessman Nasrudeen Mohamed (Jumbo Jet) to retain possession of a truck that he and his agents allegedly stole from the premises of Mahadeo Umraow.

Harris in his article contended that, “…this lawyer (for Mohamed) in the stolen property case fabricated his defence and won a favourable decision from a judge. And this brings me to the issue of interim injunctions on ex-parte applications. Far too often, judges grant these injunctions as though they have a right.”

Last week Harris was informed by telephone to appear before the judge on Thursday January 4.

The judge in open court told Harris that he must return the following Monday, January 8 and he could retain counsel if he so desired.

At the time, Harris had no indication of what matters he was facing. On his return to court on Monday with his attorney, one of the matters was disposed of and Harris was advised to return yesterday for a more serious proceeding.

Yesterday, the charge contempt of court was read to him for the first time.

Harris stood silently in the courtroom as his attorney Trinidadian Kulraj Kampta, who was holding for attorney-at-law Khemraj Ramjattan, attempted to make some preliminary submissions.

The judge had advised that he was giving Harris an opportunity to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt, despite the insistence of Attorney Kampta that before his client did so, the judge should listen to the preliminary submissions.

But Justice Roy firmly indicated that he was not prepared to listen to any submissions at the time, and then set Tuesday, January 16 as the date for Harris to return to court.

According to the particulars of the matter of contempt, Harris in his article, (a) sought to bring the court into contempt and to obstruct the course of justice and its fair administration; (b) prejudiced the minds of the public against a party in a case which has not been finally heard and determined; (c) scandalized the court and brought the entire administration of justice into disrepute; (d) commented on the proceedings in a pending civil action and purported to put forward a defence which was then not on the court's record; (e) sought to prejudice a party to the proceedings and to prevent there being a fair trial; (f) published a heading to the aforesaid article which was not a fair index of the matter pending before the court and (g) conveyed to the public that the orders granted by the court were based on considerations other than settled legal principles.

Legal opinion is divided on the matter which is being seen in many legal quarters as a landmark case that could determine the direction the court will take with respect to expressing opinion of matters before the court as against the right to freedom of expression.