Minister with responsibility for Information, Hon. Sandrea Falconer, has implored the country’s media associations to move with greater urgency to establish a Press Council, that will facilitate redress for persons claiming damage to their reputation as a result of news reports.
“It cannot be defensible that after 69 years of the Press Association of Jamaica and many years of the (association) talking about establishing a Press Council, that we still do not have such a body in place. It is totally unacceptable that in 2012, Jamaicans who do not have the means to sue for libel are not able to get redress for any harm suffered as a result of the Press,” the Minister said, while addressing the National Journalism Week 2012 Forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on December 4.
She also called on the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) to “begin discussions for us to set this in motion,” adding that she was “happy that the PAJ is at one with me on this and has expressed its own frustration at not being able to see such a Council come to fruition.”
“If we are serious about press freedom, democracy and the need to fight the corruption scourge, we cannot treat with contempt this matter of providing a forum where Jamaicans can go if they feel injured by the Press. They must have somewhere they can turn to for justice,” the Minister emphasised.
Ms. Falconer said that while she understood the challenges involved in trying to influence change as media workers and not media owners, she urged them to “get your act together and help deepen our democracy by calling for the establishment of this Press Council.”
She pledged the Government’s full support for this move, reiterating the administration’s intention to have a modern, progressive defamation Bill tabled in Parliament before the end of this legislative year.
“We are committed to libel reform because we know it is in the interest of good governance and democracy. We believe in accountability and transparency and we believe in giving the media the tools to hold our feet to the fire and to really speak truth to power without fear,” she said.
“The Press is a vital institution in a democratic society and to effectively carry out its functions, it needs the tools to work with. Libel reform is critical. But, while we strengthen the powers of journalists to investigate and to uncover corruption and to shame those who abuse power, let us not leave citizens in this democracy without any recourse of redress when they are harmed by the media. Let us be equally vigilant in protecting the rights of all Jamaicans,” she added.