The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) demands Barbados authorities drop criminal charges against newspaper employees

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on the authorities of Barbados to drop criminal charges against three employees of the newspaper The Nation, who had allegedly violated the country’s Protection of Children Act by publishing an indecent photograph of minors.

(PERSONAL FILE IMAGE) The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on the authorities of Barbados to drop criminal charges against three employees of the newspaper The Nation, who had allegedly violated the country's Protection of Children Act by publishing an indecent photograph of minors.

(PERSONAL FILE IMAGE) The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on the authorities of Barbados to drop criminal charges against three employees of the newspaper The Nation, who had allegedly violated the country’s Protection of Children Act by publishing an indecent photograph of minors.

On Oct. 26, 2013, The Nation published a story titled Sex Scene featuring a photograph of two 14-year-olds engaged in a sexual act at a secondary school classroom, reported the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspaper. Even though the faces of the minors were blurred, Barbados police filed criminal charges against Nation publisher Vivian-Anne Gittens, its editor-in-chief Roy Morris, and senior journalist Sanka Price, who wrote the story. The photograph was taken from Facebook, where it was circulated along with a cell phone video filmed by two teenage classmates who are also facing charges of their own.

The three journalists were originally detained for several hours and appeared in court on Nov. 14, 2013, but the matter was adjourned to March 11 of this year, and later to July 21, according to IAPA. They face up to five years in prison each.

“The charges should be dropped, taking into account the negative consequences to freedom of the press these accusations lead to,” said Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

Paolillo said the newspaper had evidently published the photograph and story in an effort to expose what they saw as a failure on the part of the educational institution in question, rather than an attempt to publish inappropriate images of minors.

In a Nov. 15 statement, published by The Nation, Assistant Commissioner of Police Lionel Thompson said the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) fully acknowledged “the critical role the Press plays in a liberal democratic society like [Barbados],” but that they were “legally bound to impartially enforce the criminal law” and “there was a sufficiency of evidence to support the charges that were brought.” {DATA COURTESY, cont’d: Knight Center, TX}

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