Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Our response to the threat from World News Media

A few days ago we received an email from World News Media Ltd that said:
To whom it may concern,

Please take down the following page on your website: http://consumerwatchdogbw.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/more-awards.html

This is a defamation of our companies reputation & character.

If you have any queries about the authenticity of our awards feel free to contact me directly & I will answer any queries you may have.

Please remove the post within 28 days or we will have no choice but to instigate legal proceedings.

[Name withheld] | Legal Assistant | World News Media Ltd
[Please note that any poor English is theirs, not mine.]

Having received a number of legal threats over the years, I was a little disappointed by this one. Firstly, it’s usual practice when composing a legal threat to establish your bona fides before making the threat. An introduction along the lines of “I am from company XXX and we own / represent / have been instructed by company YYY” is the norm.

The post they complain about, from July 2012, related to a news story in Mmegi entitled "Stanbic, Barclays, FNBB win banking awards".

The Mmegi article reported:
According to World Finance, banks were judged on a variety of indicators including new and innovative services, smart partnerships, key financial ratios, pre-tax profits, real growth and steps taken to prepare for stricter banking regulations."World Finance's Banking Awards celebrate those who have capitalised rather than caved at times of high stakes," says a World Finance statement.
My response was simple and you can see it here. I asked:
But how exactly are these "awards" awarded? Who selects the winners? Who checks that the companies are actually legitimate? Who makes sure they're not actually crooks?
All the original post from 2012 did was to report that certain banks in Botswana had received awards from World Finance and that the Mirror in the UK had reported that World Finance had given awards to two companies, World Commodity Partners Ltd and Tullett Brown Ltd, that had later been shown to be deeply suspicious.

[You can see a copy of the latest Mirror article about them here and an archived copy of the original article here.]

The Mirror told me yesterday that they’d asked World Finance to comment on the obvious mistake of giving awards to crooks but that they hadn’t taken the opportunity to respond.

That’s as far as my comments went about World Finance. I didn’t say their awards were bogus, fake or not respectable and I didn’t say anything bad about the company. I just said that they’d given awards to at least two suspicious companies in the past and that:
Before being impressed by a company winning an award you need to be very skeptical about the award. Ask some questions like "How exactly did they win it?"
Given the history of bogus awards that we covered over the years (that many companies still proudly declare they've won) I think that’s a reasonable question, don't you?

Another important thing that these threats should include is some explanation of what they think was defamatory. But on this occasion they don’t even give a hint. Not a single clue. They just said that “This is a defamation” and that if I don’t accede to their demands, they’ll “instigate legal proceedings”. Do they even know themselves what offended them? Have they even read the original post?

And it’s not defamation.

Section 195 of the Penal Code of Botswana says that a comment is not defamatory if “the matter is true and it was for the public benefit that it should be published”. There’s no evidence, not even a shred, that anything I wrote was untrue and it’s clearly for the public benefit if people are encouraged to be skeptical, don’t you think?

Here’s another thing. Why did it take them four and a half years to take offence? It’s clearly not high on their list of priorities. Here in Botswana, claims for defamation are “prescribed” after one year, which strikes me as very reasonable.

So, in summary, they’ve taken an awfully long time to be offended by something that isn’t offensive, that is actually true and that has been said by other organisations much more prestigious and widely read than us. They have no reason to object to anything that was posted. And they’re wasting my time.

So will I be removing or changing the post?


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