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Libel law could be amended next year

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Observer senior reporter douglasl@jamaicoabserver.com

Monday, December 03, 2012    

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A Bill addressing defamation that could affect the practice of journalism in Jamaica may come before Parliament before April next year, Minister of Information Sandrea Falconer disclosed yesterday.

Falconer also promised that the Government would defend press freedom in Jamaica, even when the media were unfavourable to the Government.

Speaking at a church service to mark the start of Journalism Week, Falconer said Minister of Justice Mark Golding had assured her that work was being done on the Defamation Bill and that it could go before Parliament before the end of March 2013.

“Based on consultations held with stakeholders, some of what came out of those consultations are being looked at for inclusion in the Bill,” Falconer disclosed.

Falconer called on journalists to be responsible even as they seek to investigate and unearth corruption.

“In your quest for truth, if you are going to print or carry stories that may be harmful to persons and their families, ensure that those stories pass the public interest test,” said Falconer, a former journalist.

She, however, stated her Government's support for press freedom.

“Although we may not agree with what you write or what you carry, we may not even like to read it sometimes, but we will fight to defend freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Jamaica,” the information minister said.

In her remarks at the Kencot Christian Fellowship Church in Kingston, President of the Press Association of Jamaica Jenni Campbell urged journalists to stand up for their own causes even as they sought to give a voice to the powerless in society.

“We must stand firmly against working in a climate where payola and other forms of corruption is an almost necessary consideration as we are called upon to do more, simply because new and emerging technology demands it without any thought of how these realities impact on our already meagre resources,” she said.

Campbell called on media workers to pool their energies to address long hours, libel laws and other matters.

“As we peddle our truths, rights and integrity, we must be prepared to speak up for ourselves. It is only then that we can speak for others with confidence and without fear.”

Dr Peter Phillips, Member of Parliament for East Central St Andrew in which the church is located, called on journalists to be guided by values of honesty, sincerity, forgiveness, spirituality and tolerance in a world dominated by materialism.

He also challenged the media to lead the building of consensus in society “which will be absolutely necessary if we are to survive the challenges which are currently upon us”.

Pastor of the church Errol Bolt called on the media to characterise their work with integrity. He noted that many outstanding sporting personalities and politicians had fallen from their positions because of their lack of integrity.

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