T&T updating libel laws

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar shakes hands with Director of the International Press Institute Alison Bethel McKenzie at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar shakes hands with Director of the International Press Institute Alison Bethel McKenzie at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.

PORT OF SPAIN — Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was due today to take a note to cabinet to amend the laws to ensure that no journalist can be jailed under section nine of the Libel and Defamation Act for the malicious publication of any defamatory libel.

This move comes on the eve of World Press Freedom Day which will be celebrated tomorrow.

The Prime Minister said citizens can be comforted that section eight of the Libel and Defamation Act will remain part of the laws and hence in the event that someone publishes defamatory libel knowing same to be false, it will still be a criminal offence.

She added that safeguards still remain in place whereby citizens have the right to seek redress in the civil courts.

Persad-Bissessar said this was a major step made by her government in its commitment to a robust and free press in Trinidad and Tobago.

The prime minister made the announcement at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday at a news conference with International Press Institute director Alison McKenzie, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association Kiran Maharaj and head of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, Wesley Gibbings.

After cabinet’s expected approval of the note today, the prime minister said the amendment was a simple one and should be on the parliament’s Order Paper in a “relatively short space of time”.

She said that discussions with stakeholders have taken place over the past year since her government hosted the 2012 IPI World Congress in June 2012 and gave an undertaking to discuss the continued existence of law on criminal libel in this country.

Fruitful dialogue

Persad-Bissessar said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan engaged in “free and frank” dialogue with the IPI and TTPBA resulting in the move to amend the Libel and Defamation Act.

“We will insert a new provision so that no journalist can be criminally charged and prosecuted under section 9 of the Libel and Defamation Act for the malicious publication of any defamatory libel,” said Persad-Bissessar. (Express)

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