The days of criminal prosecution being waved before a journalist accused of libel or defamation are fast coming to an end.
Sandrea Falconer, the minister with responsibility for information, revealed yesterday that Cabinet has approved the tabling of a new defamation bill.
According to Falconer, the bill will result in the abolition of the distinction between libel and slander and the establishment of a single cause known as defamation.
The minister said the abolition of the law relating to criminal libel means "that no journalist can be locked up for defamation once this law is passed and comes into force".
"The Cabinet is of the strong view that journalists should never have to face the threat of prosecution when carrying out their lawful duties," Falconer said.
She said a free, vigorous and ethical press is a critical ingredient of a modern and striving democracy.
"I want to emphasise that the removal of criminal libel and defamation from the books does not mean that journalists can impugn people's character and destroy reputation. They have to be responsible for their actions," said the minister who was speaking at the weekly Jamaica House press briefing.
While Falconer was announcing the move to end criminal libel, the Press Association of Jamaica was in Parliament trying to convince a parliamentary committee not to entertain to a suggestion from the police to criminalise defamation in cyberspace.