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Court battle begins between Jamaican gay rights activist and local television stations

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2016 | 10:28 AM

The battle in the Court of Appeal between a Jamaican gay rights activist and three local television stations over a video promoting tolerance for gays has started. 

Queen's Counsel Lord Anthony Gifford, who is representing, Maurice Tomlinson, began legal submissions before a panel of three judges yesterday. 

He argued that Jamaica's Constitution guarantees freedom of speech for social movements, social reforms and freedom of association in the society just like campaigning in politics. 

And he noted that the rights of Tomlinson have to be balanced against the rights of the television stations. 

Meanwhile, Lord Gifford said the actions of the television stations in refusing to air the video were equivalent to censorship which is frowned upon by the Constitution. 

Tomlinson wants the Appeals Court to set aside a 2013 lower court ruling that Television Jamaica, CVM TV and the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica did not breach the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms when they refused to air the video promoting tolerance for gays.

Tomlinson had suggested that the fact that the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica viewed the video and found no breach of any of its rules had to be taken into account.

However, the Constitutional Court said it could not overlook the fact that the Broadcasting Commission is a regulator and not the operator of any of the stations.

And according to the judges, each of the defendants, must have the right to determine what they broadcast, the time at which any broadcast is made and the manner in which it is done.

The case continues today.