IPI Executive Director calls on Trinidad and Tobago to support defamation bill

Statement by the Executive Director of the IPI;-

It is with great esteem that, as executive director of the International Press Institute, I congratulate the Trinidad and Tobago House of Representatives for passing legislation to partially repeal criminal defamatory libel offences. It is a monumental step in the right direction we don’t take lightly.

But while the international community celebrates this accomplishment, we remain concerned about arguments advanced by some members of the House of Representatives against what we believe to be a progressive Libel and Defamation (Amendment) Bill 2013.

Trinidad and Tobago is a leading member of the Caribbean Community and is obliged to uphold its commitment as a signatory to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, inclusive of Article 19 which holds that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions with interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Criminal defamation has no place in a democracy. It is not a legislated provision that is intended only to punish the media and other purveyors of information, analysis and opinion. It is a law that impacts every citizen in every corner of the nation. What it means is that anyone – anyone – can be jailed for publishing or broadcasting defamatory material, even if that material is published inadvertently.

While IPI believes that every citizen should, indeed – must, have a right to his or her reputation, we believe that that right is secured in the civil courts and that action against a journalist, or any other person, should be brought in civil court.

Trinidad and Tobago should remain in its rightful place at the top of the list of democratic countries that not only boast of, but encourage, a free and empowered media. A media that informs, investigates and analyzes; that keeps track of legislators and legislation; that investigates corruption and praises advancement.

Trinidad and Tobago should remain in its rightful place at the top of the list of democratic countries that not only boast of, but encourage, a free and empowered media. A media that informs, investigates and analyzes; that keeps track of legislators and legislation; that investigates corruption and praises advancement.

Today, on the eve of the Senate’s vote on the Libel and Defamation (Amendment) Bill 2013, IPI and the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) encourage political organisations to put aside their differences and to uphold the spirit of new measures we hope will eventually lead to the eventual decriminalization of all forms of expression.

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