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The final of the town hall meetings to discuss the review of Jamaica’s libel and slander laws gets underway Thursday, January 24, at 6:00 p.m. at the Holy Cross Church Hall on Half-Way Tree Road. Prime Minister Bruce Golding has established a committee, under the chairmanship of Justice Hugh Small, to review Jamaica’s libel and slander laws and to make a report by the end of February. As part of this review process, the committee is canvassing the views of the public on this critical area.
There will be a four-member panel at the town hall meeting, which will be chaired by Justice Hugh Small. Other members of the panel will be Press Association of Jamaica President, Desmond Richards; newspaper columnist and media specialist, Claude Robinson, and talk-show host, Emily Crooks. An open discussion will follow the panel presentations, during which members of the public will give their views on how Jamaica’s libel and slander laws should be changed to facilitate greater investigative journalism.
The committee has embarked on a major public education programme to elicit submissions from individuals and groups on the factors which the committee should take into consideration in carrying out its review. Deadline for submissions is January 31.
The committee is charged with the responsibility of recommending changes necessary to strengthen good governance and promote greater transparency and accountability in Government.
According to its terms of reference, the committee will be making recommendations which should support the principle of freedom of the Press; prevent the use of laws relating to libel and slander to suppress information to which the public is reasonably entitled, and to impose the appropriate burden of accountability on public officials holding public trust.
The 12-member committee is also expected to make recommendations which should provide reasonable protection against false and damaging publication. The Prime Minister had promised in his swearing-in speech, “to review the libel and slander law to ensure that it cannot be used as a firewall to protect wrongdoers.”
The committee is made up of representatives of the Media Association of Jamaica, the Press Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Bar Association, civil society and the People’s National Party.