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The Joint Select Committee considering the Report on the Review of the Defamation Law held its first meeting on Thursday March 19 at Gordon House, Duke Street Kingston.
The 12-member committee chaired by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Senator Dorothy Lightbourne was specifically convened to deal with administrative matters, including the timeline and procedure for examination of the 42-page report.
Senator Lightbourne in her opening remarks noted that the administration had pledged in its Manifesto to modernize the laws relating to libel and slander so that those engaged in corruption can be more easily exposed and brought to justice.
Senator Lightbourne alerted the Committee to the Terms of Reference of the Justice Small Committee set out in Page One of the report.
In a brief overview Senator Lightbourne highlighted some of the issues identified by the Libel Committee in its deliberations.
They include the relationship between the Freedom of Information Act and the Defamation Law; modern trends towards liberalization of defamation laws; transparency and accountability; whether public officials who allege defamation, should face a greater burden and prove that the defendant knew the statement was false or made with reckless disregard for the truth and he/she suffered damage. In addition a number of key decisions were made at the sitting.
. Committee members agreed that the quorum for meetings should consist of four members that is one third of the full Committee.
. The 12-member committee is to study the report and request the Parliament Secretariat to obtain copies of all material considered by the Libel Committee. Thereafter the Joint Select Committee will decide if it requires further submission.
. That a date be fixed for the next meeting after the completion of the Budget Debate and that early notice be given to members prior to their attendance.
The Justice Small Chaired 12-member Committee was appointed in October 2007 and completed its work in the three month period set by Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
The report was submitted on February 29, 2008.
The Government is represented on the Committee by Horace Chang, Clive Mullings, Gregory Mair, Senator Arthur Williams, Laurie Broderick and Senator Desmond McKenzie.
Members on the Opposition side are Ronald Thwaites, Senator A. J. Nicholson, Senator K. D. Knight, Phillip Paulwell and Michael Peart.

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