Libel Laws Must be Balanced – Press Association President


President of the Press Association of Jamaica, Desmond Richards has said that protecting an individual’s reputation while not limiting the media’s right to freedom of expression are major issues relating to the review of Jamaica’s libel laws.
“So far, in the discussion a number of points have emerged and one which keeps repeating and recurring is reputation,” he stressed in a JIS Think Tank session.
“People’s reputation must be protected. From the perspective of the press there is nothing objectionable to the principle that a person’s reputation should be protected. That principle to me is sacred,” he emphasized.
However, while reputation is important, the Press Association President is concerned about how the libel laws are currently practiced.
“The problem is that the libel laws in Jamaica can work as currently constructed or practiced, it can work to prevent the press or inhibit freedom of expression. This is the thin line that we should focus on,” he stated.
In the same breath, he is calling on a code of ethics for all media to ensure responsibility. “We firmly believe that a code of ethics adopted by all media is something that must be implemented,” he stated.
Mr. Richards further explained that the review of the libel laws is an “opportunity for Jamaica to play a meaningful role in putting together a piece of legislation that is going to have considerable impact on their lives and by clearing the way to empower ordinary people to exercise their right to freedom of expression more effectively”.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the committee appointed by the Government to review the country’s libel and slander legislation, Justice Hugh Small has informed that the recommendations will be submitted at the end of this month.
It is expected that the recommendations will, among other things, support the principle of freedom of the press; provide reasonable protection against false and damaging publications; and impose appropriate burden of accountability on public officials holding public trust.
The Committee, which was established by Prime Minister, Bruce Golding is to recommend legislative changes that are considered necessary to strengthen good governance and promote greater transparency and accountability in government.

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