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Grenada first Caribbean state to abolish criminal defamation

VIENNA, Austria (CMC) — The International Press Institute (IPI) and other media organisations have congratulated Grenada on becoming the first Caribbean state to decriminalise defamation, but urged the Grenadian government to further abolish seditious libel.

According to Grenada’s Ministry of Legal Affairs, a July reform to the country’s criminal code included the repeal of Section 252, which regulated “negligent” and “intentional” libel.

The provision had provided for prison terms of up to six months and two years, respectively.

The move came amid lobbying by IPI and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM). Both organisations launched a campaign early this year to abolish criminal libel laws across the Caribbean, and urged Grenada Prime Minister Tillman Thomas to remove libel offences from the Criminal Code in a letter sent last May.

“This government, even in opposition, felt, as a wide percentage of the world does, that having criminal libel on the books is a formal hindrance to freedom of expresion and of the press. We were of the view that civil responsibilities and forms of redress are adequate,” said Grenada’s Attorney General Rohan A Phillip

Asked about the broader implications of repeal, the Attorney General commented that the abolition of criminal libel “helps to keep democracy alive and keep those who hold the reins of power in check.”

Meanwhile, President of the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG), Rawle Titus said has cautiously welcomed the news of repeal. “We have to commend the government and see this as a step in the right direction,” he said. “We hope they go further and remove seditious libel.”

“We are thrilled that Grenada has decriminalised defamation, setting an example that we hope the rest of the Caribbean will follow” expressed IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “I want to thank Prime Minister Tillman Thomas for following through on his stated intention to abolish criminal defamation before the end of the year.”

According to McKenzie the step made by Grenada is an important day for press freedom not just in Grenada but also for the greater Caribbean.

“Criminal defamation laws are archaic, redundant, and a threat to democracy and the free exercise of journalism so long as they remain on the books. We call upon all other Caribbean states to follow Grenada’s lead and consign these laws to the dustbin of history,” he said.

IPI’s Executive Director urged Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Barbados in particular to push through pending bills that would decriminalise defamation before the end of 2012.

She also renewed IPI’s call for Trinidad and Tobago to address its libel laws.

Wesley Gibbings, ACM President, added, “This is a singularly important moment in recent Caribbean history for those of us who yearn for conditions more conducive to unfettered free expression. The challenge is now extended to other members of the Caribbean Community family who say they wish to move in this direction, but have yet to find the political will or confidence.”

In June, IPI in partnership with the ACM conducted a two-week advocacy mission to Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago as part of IPI’s campaign to abolish criminal libel and insult laws in the Caribbean. IPI released a final mission report this week.

 

 

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VIENNA, Austria (CMC) — The International Press Institute (IPI) and other media organisations have congratulated Grenada on becoming the first Caribbean state to decriminalise defamation, but urged the Grenadian government to further abolish seditious libel.

According to Grenada’s Ministry of Legal Affairs, a July reform to the country’s criminal code included the repeal of Section 252, which regulated “negligent” and “intentional” libel.

The provision had provided for prison terms of up to six months and two years, respectively.

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The move came amid lobbying by IPI and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM). Both organisations launched a campaign early this year to abolish criminal libel laws across the Caribbean, and urged Grenada Prime Minister Tillman Thomas to remove libel offences from the Criminal Code in a letter sent last May.

“This government, even in opposition, felt, as a wide percentage of the world does, that having criminal libel on the books is a formal hindrance to freedom of expresion and of the press. We were of the view that civil responsibilities and forms of redress are adequate,” said Grenada’s Attorney General Rohan A Phillip

Asked about the broader implications of repeal, the Attorney General commented that the abolition of criminal libel “helps to keep democracy alive and keep those who hold the reins of power in check.”

Meanwhile, President of the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG), Rawle Titus said has cautiously welcomed the news of repeal. “We have to commend the government and see this as a step in the right direction,” he said. “We hope they go further and remove seditious libel.”

“We are thrilled that Grenada has decriminalised defamation, setting an example that we hope the rest of the Caribbean will follow” expressed IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “I want to thank Prime Minister Tillman Thomas for following through on his stated intention to abolish criminal defamation before the end of the year.”

According to McKenzie the step made by Grenada is an important day for press freedom not just in Grenada but also for the greater Caribbean.

“Criminal defamation laws are archaic, redundant, and a threat to democracy and the free exercise of journalism so long as they remain on the books. We call upon all other Caribbean states to follow Grenada’s lead and consign these laws to the dustbin of history,” he said.

IPI’s Executive Director urged Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Barbados in particular to push through pending bills that would decriminalise defamation before the end of 2012.

She also renewed IPI’s call for Trinidad and Tobago to address its libel laws.

Wesley Gibbings, ACM President, added, “This is a singularly important moment in recent Caribbean history for those of us who yearn for conditions more conducive to unfettered free expression. The challenge is now extended to other members of the Caribbean Community family who say they wish to move in this direction, but have yet to find the political will or confidence.”

In June, IPI in partnership with the ACM conducted a two-week advocacy mission to Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago as part of IPI’s campaign to abolish criminal libel and insult laws in the Caribbean. IPI released a final mission report this week.