JaRIA makes its voice heard - Stands against Clause 15 of proposed Anti-Gang Legislation

Published: Thursday | December 12, 2013 Comments 0
Minister of National Security Peter Bunting.
Minister of National Security Peter Bunting.
Damion Crawford, state minister at the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment.
Damion Crawford, state minister at the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment.

 Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer

The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) joins Damion Crawford, minister of state in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, in disagreeing with elements of the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act 2013 (also called the Anti-Gang Legislation).

According to the body, which positions itself as a representative of Jamaica's music industry, the Anti-Gang Legislation oversteps several freedoms normally enjoyed by the entertainment industry.

According to a release sent to The Gleaner from JaRIA, the body has already given written objection to clause 15 of the act.

Despite the written objection, JaRIA also felt the need to make the public aware of what problems exist in the clause.

The objections from JaRIA were penned to the Parliamentary Committee in October after, the group says, much research and several consultations.

According to JaRIA, the submission was the result of the effort of well-standing members of Jamaica's entertainment industry, including the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Jamaica Music Society.

Not dissimilar to Crawford's recent comments on the matter in last week's Sunday Gleaner, JaRIA says it has serious concern with the legislation targeting the music industry, while turning a blind eye to other areas of entertainment.

"Only the music sector is addressed and there is no mention of the other sectors in entertainment. When it comes to film, there is a negative impact on local and overseas audiences," JaRIA said.

The body also highlighted that several films have portrayed the Jamaican society in a violent manner, yet the Anti-Gang Legislation does not provide any ideas for monitoring that aspect of entertainment.

"Moreover, the Jamaican society is consistently portrayed in award-winning, profanity-laced films as an array of violent rival garrisons - the violence being graphic and exaggerated, yet there is no outcry or suggestion of censorship," JaRIA said.

Freedom of expression

The body also says the Anti-Gang Legislation restricts creativity and the freedom of expression.

The release continued: "It is restrictive to creativity, lyrical expression, freedom of speech and reggae as social commentary, especially since the universal impact of reggae music is because of its social commentary."

According to JaRIA, policing performance or visual art as advocated by Clause 15 in the Anti-Gang Legislation is a contradiction to democracy.

JaRIA also made reference to tattooing, saying there are many instances when a tattoo does not signify a connection to anything in particular, even if it seems so.

The representative of the music industry is often criticised for paying more attention to reggae than it does other genres of music.

This time around, the body points out that pointing to the implications of Clause 15 of the Anti-Gang Legislation and of staunchly rejecting it, means much to every aspect of entertainment.

"Please note, the debate is not about dancehall but about all of the music and by extension, the entertainment sector in a time when creative industries are touted as a major contributor to economic growth. To this end, JaRIA is very concerned about what is being done on a national scale to take a proactive role in promoting positive, self-sustaining activities as one of the ways of lessening crime," JaRIA said.

The controversial Clause 15 of the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act 2013, states that "A person shall not use a common name of identifying sign, symbol, tattoo or other physical marking, colour or style of dress or graffiti or produce, record or perform songs to promote or facilitate the criminal activity of a criminal organisation".

The act also defines 'criminal activity' as "the planned, ongoing, continuous, or repeated participation or involvement in any serious offence".




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