A day after receiving a letter from Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ lawyer, journalist and 18 Degrees North founder Zahra Burton says she is thoughtful. She is planning her next move in general and in response to a legal threat from the Prime Minister.
She paraphrases the letter, saying that the lawyer is asking for an apology. If one is not forthcoming, legal action could be taken.
“It’s a logical reaction on his end to do that,” she says. “I don’t think you ever expect it, but you plan for it.”
The 18 Degrees North episode in question aired Monday on TVJ. It investigated Holness’ property holdings and his payment of property taxes. The piece was watched and vetted by both Burton’s and TVJ’s lawyers. Some minor tweaks were made prior to airing and some things were clarified.
“I feel a little bit thoughtful. It’s like you feel like ok, what this all going to lead to. My biggest concern is the rest of the season…I’m concerned about editorial content and being able to finish up stories we are working on. I’m concerned about financial fall-out for my company.”
Burton adds that she is not politically motivated in any way, shape or form. “I am steadfast in my commitment to investigative journalism.”
She also clarifies that she has not received any death threats. “Just legal,” she says, adding that the social media hubbub is taking up a lot of time.
18DN is an independent, investigative journalism outfit founded by former Miss Jamaica and Bloomberg news reporter Zahra Burton. Full disclosure: I am a freelance reporter who works with Burton in several capacities, but not on this story in question. I can attest to Burton’s fierce independence, determination and non-partisanship. She is simply a journalist truly committed to doing good work in a country troubled by corruption.
Despite financial challenges and a difficult environment, Burton has produced two seasons and won two awards already. It would be a loss to the nation if she were silenced. Although I don’t think that is a possibility as Jamaica ranks high in press freedom, as I have written about here.
Zahra has asked me to add this: “There is nothing to apologize for. We stand by our story.”