Libel Law Town Hall Meeting at NCU


The first of two Town Hall meetings to discuss the review of Jamaica’s libel and slander laws gets underway Tuesday evening, January 15, at the Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) main auditorium in Mandeville.
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 submit a report by the end of February. As part of this review process, the committee will hold two town hall meetings, where it will canvass the views of the public on this critical area. The other meeting will be held at the Holy Cross Church Hall in Kingston on Thursday, January 24. There will be a four-member panel for the Mandeville meeting, comprising committee member and Attorney-at-Law, David Batts; Chairman of the Communications Studies Department at NCU, Everett Wiles; well-known Mandeville attorney-at-law, Owen Crosbie and journalist Glendon Baker, editor and publisher of the “Clarion” of Manchester. An open discussion will follow the brief panel presentations. Members of the public are invited to share their views on how Jamaica’s libel and slander laws should be changed to facilitate greater investigative journalism.
The committee is embarking on a major public education programme during the month of January to elicit submissions from individuals and groups on the factors which the committee should take into consideration in carrying out its review. The 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.

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