Ruling in the matter of: Complaint of Mr Harish Boodhoo

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The particularity of Mr H.Boodhoo?s complaint is that it was officially made to the Committee more than a year after the alleged cause of complaint had arisen. Suffice it to say that after consulting Mr Jean Claude de l?Estrac, the Director General of la Sentinelle, the Committee has, with the latter?s consent, decided to hear the complaint even if made outside the delays provided by the Guidelines. On Sunday, 11 February, 2007 in the wake of the adoption of the Borrowers Protection Act, Father Souchon celebrated his Sunday mass in the intention of the victims of the Sale by Levy procedures. The mass, organized at the request of the victims and their champion, Mr Harrish Boodhoo, was attended by a large number of well-wishers, religious leaders of diverse faiths and even members of the Government. In a report published in l?express of the next day, a well-known journalist, signed an article which clearly attached more importance to the political pundits present or absent than to the religious ceremony and the victims present. It did not say a word about the religious leaders of different faiths, pandits, panditas and maulanas who attended the ceremony. After noting the presence in the same church of Harrish Boodhoo and the Prime Minister, the journalist commented that the two men «n?ont pas voulu que leurs regards se croisent» to the point that the embarrassment of Father Souchon was patent. It further remarked that the «père» of the fight for the victims, Harrish Boodhoo, «s?est fait tout petit à l?arrivée de Navin Ramgoolam». The last email was the assertion that while, in his sermon, Father Souchon had been full of praise for the Government, he did not even mention the name of Mr Boodhoo but that «à peine les invités partis», he went to salute and praise Mr Boodhoo outside the church. On the very same day, Mr Boodhoo complained to the editorship of l?express for what, in his view, were «lots of lies, innuendoes and deliberate inexact facts». He particularly took exception to the journalist?s assertion that, Father Souchon had not even mentioned his name in the course of his sermon when, on the contrary, Father Souchon had, according to him, openly thanked "Harrish" for what he had done for the victims. After having made his point, Mr Boodhoo regretfully launched into severe criticism of the journalist to whom he ascribed motives. There was no reaction from l?express. At the hearing, we had the privilege to hear the journalist who maintained that her version of the facts was correct, that Father Souchon had not mentioned the name of Mr Boodhoo in his sermon and that it was only after the official ceremony that he went to meet him outside the Church where, as reported in the article, he said «Bat la main pou Bye Harrish, vous autres. Tout sala, li kinn fer ça». On the other hand, apart from what we heard from Mr Boodhoo himself, our attention has been drawn to a report of the same mass which appeared in Le Mauricien of the same day and which clearly says that Father Souchon did speak of Mr Boodhoo in his «homélie». But even more convincing, is the letter addressed to the Committee by Father Souchon who writes ? «Au cours de mon sermon j?ai remercié le Premier ministre et la classe politique pour venir en aide aux souffrances des victimes de la mafia de la vente à la barre. J?ai eu un mot spécial pour Harrish Boodhoo pour son combat acharné pour aider les malheureux. D?ailleurs je l?avais invité à prendre la parole. Il avait décliné arguant que cette messe doit être purement religieuse.» Given the reports on record, we are inclined to think that Father Souchon, far from giving the impression of ignoring Mr Boodhoo, had a special word for him in the course of his sermon. We have not heard the Rédaction of l?express as to why it turned a deaf ear to the complaint of Mr Boodhoo, even if parts of his letter were clearly objectionable. We shall once more content ourselves to note that, on the evidence before us, the impugned article may have been in breach of articles 1 and 6 of the Code de Déontologie, Obligation de Rigueur and Séparation entre Faits et Opinions. We regret that the Rédaction of l?express did not think it wise to inform their readers that Mr Boodhoo contested the version of their Reporter/Journalist, even if it is possible that it was Father Souchon who had, more than Mr Boodhoo, been «mis en cause». L. Robert Ahnee, Roukaya Kassenally, Rivaltz Quenette
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