PM makes a statement on the Libel Defamation Act
May 1, 2013:
The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has today, Wednesday 1st May, 2013, delivered a statement on the Libel and Defamation Act at a Press Conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St. Clair.
The Prime Minister highlighted the value and importance of the freedom of the press as expressed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which places a duty on democratic governments to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression. Prime Minister also highlighted the many nations in which such freedom is not enjoyed by the media, through the use of a range of censorship techniques by the State, including the blocking of website and satellite broadcasting and the use of crude tactics of imprisonment and violence against journalists; none of which exists in Trinidad and Tobago. Mrs. Persad-Bissessar supported this point with reference to Section 4 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago which speaks to the fundamental rights and freedom of expression of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, including the media.
The Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to amend the Libel and Defamation Act by inserting a new provision. This insertion would ensure 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. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar also highlighted that a major amendment would be to change the continued existence of such law as criminal libel which is used in oppressive governments to control the media.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar also assured citizens that this change in section 9 does not affect a citizen’s right to seek redress against any media that is guilty of publishing defamatory statements against them. The Honourable Prime Minister indicated that Section 8 of the Libel and Defamation Act will remain as part of the laws of Trinidad and Tobago. This means if the media publishes defamatory libel against a citizen knowing the information to be false, it will remain as a criminal offence to allow the citizen to seek redress. Prime Minister also reiterated that citizens also have the right to seek redress in the civil courts of the land.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar also emphasized that while the government sought to revise this 167 year old law, it “would require a greater sense of professionalism and responsibility by journalists to first verify the facts before publishing a story.”
Contact: Mr. Dennis McComie
622-1625 Ext. 4007