The Le Defi Media Group (LDMG), led by Ehshan Kodarbux, has threatened LALIT member Lindsey Collen with laying charges against her for supposed “criminal defamation”, a much-criticized repressive clause left on the statute books from colonial times. This threat follows an in-depth Lalit Deklas magazine article. The Media Group has also threatened civil suits against both her and the daily newspaper, Le Mauricien, which quoted a paragraph from the Revi Lalit article. It is most unusual for one newspaper to resort to repressive legislation so as to silence another publication. Usually the Press is unanimous in defending free expression.
The threats follow one paragraph about Dawood Rawat’s strategies to gain a foothold in the Mauritian Press, which is part of a long “dossier” on the BAI scandal, which ultimately led to the Government taking over both the the Bramer Bank and the British American Insurance company. The dossier was published in Revi Lalit Deklas Number 118, which came out at the end of April, and taken up by Le Mauricien in its 30 April edition. LALIT decided to give full coverage to all the developments around the BAI scandal because it has affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of Mauritians – bank clients, insurance policy holders, workers at both the Bank and the BAI insurance, as well as in another half-dozen firms. It is only natural that we would include reference to the overt strategy of Dawood Rawat to gain influence over newspapers and radio stations. The journalists were presented by LALIT as victims of this strategy by a very powerful businessman and employer.
Here is what the LDMG communique says in News on Sunday “Upon the Advice of its lawyers, Le Defi Media Group (LDMG) will sue and will claim damages from Le Mauricien, Lindsey Collen, and other parties for associating LDMG with the BAI controversy and making vile and malicious allegations against the Group. The Management of LDMG has taken this unprecedented step in order to stop the mudslinging campaign carried by [sic] its competitors against the Group. [Signed] Management of Le Defi Media Group.” In Defi Quotidien on Friday, and Defi Plus on Saturday, however, they add: “Une déposition au criminel n’est pas à écarter contre Lindsey Collen” and “Nos hommes de loi nous ont conseillés de poursuivre au civil et au criminel. Nous prendrons des actions dés le début de la semaine prochaine. Enough is enough!”
The paragraph that they find offensive is based on fact, and is reasonable and measured in its tenor. It is on our web version of the dossier in the news item, and under the sub-heading: “Lanpriz lor medya”.
What is so surprising is that in his own 3-page interview in his own newspaper, Le Defi Plus, on 25 April, 2015, Ehshan Kodarbux concedes that Media Metrix, the Rawat company, already owns 40% of shares in LDMG. He also says that the other 60%, which are his own, were to be dealt with as follows: “[...]j’ai approché Dawood Rawat, il y a maintenant deux ans et demi, pour lui faire part de mon désir de désinvestir du groupe et de me retirer. ... Nous sommes tombés d’accord finalement pour que je me retire après quatre ans, soit en juin 2016 ...[and also that] j’ai obtenu une avance dans le cadre de notre accord”. This it seems, says it all. He adds, rather weakly, that “j’ai insisté pour conserver les droits sur mes actions jusqu’au transfert final”. His own interview is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the way in which Mr. Rawat operated.