JIS News

Montego Bay-based journalist Lloyd B. Smith has called on media workers to exercise ethical journalism and to report the news accurately and fairly.
“We as journalists are responsible to the public for what we do,” he stated in his contribution to the public consultation for a review of the libel and slander laws held on Tuesday (Feb. 12) at the Wexford Court Hotel in Montego Bay.
While advocating freedom of the press, Mr. Smith said “with freedom comes responsibility and I think that we in the media have to be careful that we are not just advocating for freedom of the press or for libel laws that are more amenable towards the pursuit of our jobs, on the basis that we are now going to pry into people’s business and personal affairs.”
Hundreds of persons from the business, communication, legal and political sectors participated in the discussion session, which was the final in a series of island-wide consultations, aimed at “having a higher level and wider cross section of discussions and views” on the country’s libel and slander laws.
The sessions were led by a government-appointed committee chaired by Justice Hugh Small. The recommendations of the committee, which will be submitted to the Prime Minister, 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 officials holding public trust.
In his address to participants in Montego Bay, Justice Small said that the defamation and libel laws of the country were ancient and that the committee was mandated to review and recommend legislative changes that are considered necessary to strengthen good governance and promote greater transparency and accountability.
“One of the main concerns that stands behind the need to look at the laws is.whether or not the media has adequate room under the existing laws to take to task issues that are of public importance. Our Constitution recognizes as a fundamental right, the right of freedom of expression,” Justice Small noted.
He said that an area for consideration is whether the standard that exists in respect of public person defamation in the United States could be applied in Jamaica.
During the discussions that followed, participants gave their opinions on freedom of expression and of the press, a code of ethics for media workers, defining who is a public official, among other things.

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