|PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar shakes hands with Alison Bethel McKenzie. |
Kiran Maharaj and Wesley Gibbings are also in the picture
“Today is a really great day, this is a really big step for Trinidad and Tobago and for my colleagues around the world and I hope that the media does not take it lightly,”McKenzie at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“This is a major step because many countries still have criminal libel and many journalists still go to jail so while there are no journalists in jail in Trinidad and Tobago today we can never make the promise that there won’t be in ten years under some different leadership...
“My home state of Florida in the United States has criminal defamation, I can go to jail for what I write in the Miami Herald if any citizen, government official or whatever decides that I’ve libelled, then and I could be taken to court,” McKenzie added.
McKenzie said that her organisation, IPI, has launched a global campaign to get rid of criminal defamation.
“IPI believes most problematically the criminal punishment associated with the various offences that fall under the umbrella of defamation including libel, slander, insult and as it is known in Latin America ‘desacato’ inevitably lead to self censorship among the media and investigative reporters in particular,” McKenzie said.
She said that interferes with the right of citizens in democratic countries to be informed about the actions of those in power of influence . “Criminal defamation is not only an issue for the press, but for all of those who have a voice and wish to express it," she said.
"Criminal libel laws are a hindrance to honest public disclosure and have no place in a modern democracy,” she said.
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) Kiran Maharaj said the initiative "shows that our Prime Minister is committed to a free media.”
Wesley Gibbings, president of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), also welcomed the move.
He said although the caribbean is not know for attacks on journalists "there exists an environment in which not all is well and we have to reach a point where we agree incrementally we need to reach the point of achieving a state where the environment for the media is as free as possible as is allowed under the process of democracy”.