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PAJ, MAJ welcome new defamation law

Published:Thursday | November 7, 2013 | 12:00 AM

The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Media Association Jamaica Limited (MAJ), yesterday welcomed the passing of the long-awaited Defamation Act which replaces the 162-year-old Libel and Slander Act and the 52-year-old Defamation Act, the MAJ calling it a milestone achievement.

The House of Representatives Tuesday passed the Defamation Act, which will, among other things, promote speedy and non-litigious methods of resolving disputes concerning the publication of defamatory matter.

Both the PAJ and the MAJ made particular reference to the fact that criminal libel has been erased from the books.

"The single, most-important element of this reform is the abolishment of criminal libel, which now means no Jamaican can be imprisoned for the spoken or written word which is proven to be defamatory," the MAJ said.

The PAJ said it was "extremely pleased that the change removes the provision of criminal libel and provides a "wire-service defence," two of the issues long lobbied for."

PAJ President Jenni Campbell also welcomed the change to remove the determination of the amount of damages for persons found guilty of publishing defamatory material from the hands of the juries and placing the decision in the hands of the judges.

Important step

"This is an important step in increasing freedom of expression and by extension, press freedom, in Jamaica," said Campbell, adding that "it is unfortunate that a legislation as important as this would linger for six years after the Hugh Small-chaired committee submitted its proposals to then Prime Minister Bruce Golding".

The MAJ said despite the passage of the new legislation, it remained concerned that the new act has not gone far enough in enabling a greater degree of accountability of public officials in their public lives and better equipping media to tackle corruption which is so pervasive in our country.