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Puzzled by support for BPSU president

BPSU president Jason Hayward (File photograph)

Dear Sir,

I’m puzzled by the outpouring of support there has been for Jason Hayward, and the requests for money to help to pay his legal bills.

You would think he was a martyr being unfairly punished for making an innocent remark. That, of course, is nonsense.

He, like many people, seems to think that because freedom of speech is protected by the Constitution, he is entitled to say anything he wants.

That’s not true. You can say what you want as long as you don’t unfairly damage the reputations of other people. That’s in the Constitution as well.

If you do say something damaging about another person, you may be in breach of the Criminal Code, and liable to be sued for libel or slander.

If, like a newspaper or a broadcaster or a webmaster, you simply published the false allegation, you would be as guilty as the person who made it. The media are knowledgeable about what constitutes defamation and libel, and avoid getting involved — most of the time.

If you are the person whose reputation has been damaged, it is likely that the only way you can undo the damage that has been done to your reputation is to sue, and to have a judge say, in effect, whether what was said was correct or not.

In the case of the Minister of Finance, Mr Hayward is alleged to have said more than once on a television programme that Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier of Bermuda, was corrupt. The television station apologised to Mr Richards straightaway, so it is not part of the suit.

Mr Richards has asked the courts to say whether what was said was true or not.

He has done that because as a minister of the Bermuda Government, especially the minister concerned with finance, he cannot allow the accusation made on public television to stand.

He has not done it, as some people have suggested, to try to ruin Mr Hayward. What Mr Richards wants is a public apology and an acknowledgment that what was said was not true. So far, Mr Hayward has refused to do that.

So far, all he is in the hole for are legal fees. Of course, he can cut his losses and simply apologise for getting it wrong. That would be that!