Rights of media institutions acknowledged by Civil Appellate Court



The right of a media institution to raise pubic awareness about the violation of laws enforced to prevent ragging in educational institutions and the right to decide the news value of a particular news published by it were recently upheld by the High Court of the Western Province exercising Civil Appellate Jurisdiction in Colombo (Civil Appellate Court).


The Order was delivered by Justice L.T.B. Dehideniya with Mrs. H.C.J. Madawala J agreeing in granting Leave to Appeal in two Petitions filed by The Leader Publications Pvt Ltd. and Fredrica Jansz, Chief Editor of The Sunday Leader. The Petitioners filed these Applications for Leave to Appeal against an Enjoining Order issued by the District Court of Colombo in a defamation action filed by Nalin Ladduwahetty, Attorney-at-Law.


The respective Enjoining Order issued by the District Court in favour of Ladduwahetty was also suspended by the Civil Appellate Court. Ladduwahetty filed the initial defamation action in the District Court of Colombo on alleged defamation caused to him by several articles published in The Sunday Leader over an incident of assault and ragging among prefects at St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia.


In the Order granting Leave to Appeal, the Court stated:


"the learned District Judge has issued the enjoining order preventing future defamations, upon the determination that there is a history of defamation against the Plaintiff. The court has not yet come to a conclusion as to whether the publications in issue are defamatory. The right of freedom of expression of the 2nd Defendant- Petitioner ensured by the Constitution and the right of a media institution to raise pubic awareness about the violation of laws enforced to prevent ragging in educational institutions have to be taken into consideration in considering the said statements. Moreover the news value of a particular news has to be decided by the institution which publishes that news. Therefore, it cannot be ex facie determined that the malice of the Defendants is established by the fact that the news relating to the Plaintiff was published in the front page of the said newspaper. Thus although there is a serious issue to be tried and determined in this case, it is not established that there are ex facie acceptable facts as to whether this case will be determined in favour of the Plaintiff. In the circumstances, we suspend this enjoining order until this case is concluded."


The Court came to this decision after taking into consideration the arguments put forward, both in the District Court and in the Civil Appellate Court, by Nigel Hatch P.C. who appeared on behalf of Jansz. Accordingly the Court determined that leave should be granted to the Petitioners against the Enjoining Order in the District Court.


Geoffrey Alagaratnam P.C. appeared for the Sunday Leader and Nigel Hatch P.C. appeared for Jansz. Romesh De Silva P.C. appeared for the Respondent Ladduwahetty.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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