New bill would decriminalize defamation in Jamaica

By Sam Naik

The Jamaican government will submit new defamation legislation designed to protect journalists in their work, reported the news website Caribbean360.  Information Minister Sandrea Falconer says the new law will remove the distinction between libel and slander, set up a single defamation cause, and abolish the criminal libel law, added the website.

“This means no journalist can be locked up for defamation once this law is passed and come into force,” Falconer said. The changes stem from a 2008 report issued by a committee chaired by Justice Hugh Small, reported Caribbean360. The report, containing 16 recommendations including the abolition of criminal libel, was approved by the House of Representatives in 2011, the website said.

However, there have been fears that a clause criminalizing cyber-defamation would be inserted into the law. Both the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Office of the Director of Publish Prosecutions submitted a recommendation for the criminalization of cyber-defamation to the joint select Parliamentary committee which is reviewing the new legislation, reported the Jamaica Observer newspaper. The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) countered with a submission of their own against criminalization, said the paper.

On March 23, Justice Minister Mark Golding submitted the law decriminalizing defamation, reported the newspaper The Gleaner.

To read the MAJ’s submission to the committee, click here.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.