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Nation Publishing Company Limited have been acquitted of any wrongdoing in the publication of a photograph which appeared on the back page of its newspaper almost two years ago.
But before telling the company’s Publisher Vivian-Anne Gittens, Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris and News Editor Sanka Price that they were free to go, Magistrate Alliston Seale warned them and all other media that there was a need for responsible journalism.
The trio were found not guilty of publishing an indecent picture of two minors in the SATURDAY SUN on October 26, 2013.
Seale accepted the no-case submission made by the company’s lawyers Alair Shepherd, QC, and Ezra Alleyne last week in the District ‘D’ Magistrates Court after listening to the arguments of Prosecutor Inspector Eustace Ifill today while sitting in the District ‘A’ Magistrates Court.
Just before he dismissed them, Seale reminded them that it was their social responsibility to be cognizant of what they published.
“I know that sometimes newspapers want to get the jump on their competition . . . but in cases like this I think it would have been better to engage the police rather than go public,” he advised.
“Because sometimes when you try to get the jump in news, you end up with a half baked story where the middle is not cooked.
“I hope that you have learned from your experiences. I accept the no-case submission and the case is dismissed,” Seale stated.
However, he admitted that while the newspaper had received a tongue-lashing for publishing the photograph, the public had to accept that the media had an important role to play in society.
“While it is true that you have the responsibility to protect the young people in our society, the public must still be made aware of what is going on and what our children are being exposed to.
“The public must know and we as citizens must know. We want to hide it, but the truth remains that our schoolchildren are having sex at school when they should be learning their schoolwork,” Seale lamented.
“We must know what is going on in our society and that is the role of the media.”
Earlier, the Magistrate had agreed with Shepherd – who was not present for today’s proceedings – and Alleyne, that the police had erred in charging the trio individually as opposed to charging the Nation Publishing Company Limited.
Seale urged the prosecution to present any evidence – to no avail – which suggested that either of the three had shown an indecent photo to anyone.
He noted that had the Nation Publishing Company Limited been charged, then as employees of the company, they may have been a case against them.
“In my opinion, the Nation Publishing Company Limited should have been charged as an entity itself, even if the individuals had connived or neglected in their duty,” he said.
“There is a difference between whether they stand as the Nation Publishing Company Limited or in their personal capacities. But only in circumstances where there is evidence which shows they did anything in their personal capacity can we go forward.
“The Nation Publishing Company Limited is a separate legal personality which can be charged,” he added.
After being guided by the court, Ifill, who had been assisted by Sergeant Janice Ifill, conceded by saying, “it makes no sense going forward if the court sees it that way.”
The trio had faced up to five years in prison if convicted of the offence.