Posted on

WATCH OUT!

Share

Free Press essential to our democratic way of life

by Andrew cummings

It has long been settled that “… a free Press is an essential element in maintaining and enhancing our democratic way of life.”
But it is important to remember why the free press occupies this crucial position. It is not because of any special wisdom, interest or status enjoyed by proprietors, editors or journalists. {{more}} It is because the media are the ears and eyes of the general public. They act on behalf of the general public. Their right to publish is neither more nor less than that of the general public. Indeed, it is that of the general public for whom they are trustees.”

Reputation

The Law recognizes in every man a right to enjoy the reputation in which he stands in the opinion of others unaffected by false and defamatory statements and imputations. The Law rightly attaches a high value to a person’s reputation. Not only for that individual’s sake but also in the wider interest of the public.

Tim Hector’s case
in Antigua

It is of interest to note that in the celebrated Antiguan case of Hector v Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda, Lord Bridge of Harwich, delivering the advice of the Privy Council (our highest court), had this to say, “In a free democratic society it is almost too obvious to need stating that those who hold office in government and who are responsible for public administration must always be open to criticism.
Any attempt to stifle or fetter such criticism amounts to political censorship of the most insidious and objectionable kind. At the same time it is no less obvious that the very purpose of criticism, leveled at those who have the conduct of public affairs, by their political opponents, is to undermine public confidence in their stewardship and to persuade the electorate that the opponents would make a better job of it than those presently holding office …”

Criminal Libel In Grenada – “Doc, Stop Playing Politics”

George Worme was arrested and charged on September 28, 1999, “For that he on Friday the 17th day of September 1999, at St John Street in the town of St. George Southern Magisterial District, did publish a Defamatory Libel concerning Keith Claudius MITCHELL, Prime Minister of Grenada, in the form of a letter under the caption ‘Doc Stop Playing Politics’, which said letter contained the following defamatory matter concerning the said Keith Claudius MITCHELL, ‘During the Election Campaign you spent million of dollars to bribe people to vote for you and your party disregarding what the Law says governing the Electoral Process,’ with an intention to defame the said Keith Claudius MITCHELL.
Contrary to Section 252(2) of the Criminal Code Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of the 1994 Revised Laws of GRENADA.”
Worme’s lawyers took the case all the way to the Privy Council on the main ground that the charge preferred was inconsistent with S 10 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. (In St. Vincent and the Grenadines our Criminal Libel Law and Constitution are virtually identical to Grenada’s.

Privy Council’s Ruling

1) Section 252 (2) of The Criminal Code is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons.

2) Section 252 (2) of The Criminal Code reasonably justifiable in a democratic society which Grenada is.

3) Section 252 (2) of The Criminal Code not inconsistent with S10 of Constitution of Grenada.

The Present Status of Worme’s Case

The trial for criminal libel against George Worme is currently proceeding through the criminal system. The preliminary inquiry is now in progress.

Caribbean Political Picong

The words “Corruption and Bribery” among several other seemingly pejorative words are widely used in Caribbean politics with impunity. Tracing a politician’s lineage and spicing it up with salacious comess appeal to our populace. Real issues are pushed into the background. Because these matters are traded among politicians, libel and slander actions are seldom pursued to finality.

Guidelines

Should we have guidelines which serve to cleanse and enhance the political culture and so purge it of our primal instincts for vicious and malicious verbal onslaughts, character assassination and intrusiveness into people’s bedroom?
In the meantime, a red flag for all journalists and commentators is aloft.
Public office holders are on the offensive.
Watch out with your choice of words or else Mr. Rodriguez (the prison boss) could well be your host!

LAST NEWS