The Media Association Jamaica Limited (MAJ) has responded to the recent arrest of three employees of the Nation Publishing Company Ltd for publishing a photograph of two minors engaged in sexual activity in a school classroom.
In a statement yesterday, the MAJ said it was concerned with these developments “particularly during a period when Jamaica and the rest of the region are celebrating the abolishment, in at least one CARICOM territory, of criminal defamation which has served, though seldom used, as a shackle on press freedom.
“It is the legitimate job of media to provide information to the public, to shed light on wrongs of all forms, to critique and to criticize, all with a view to strengthening democracy, good governance and accountability. It is our view that The Nation Publishing was doing no more and no less than carrying out its legitimate function with the publication of the picture in question,” the statement said.
“While the publication may have been offensive to some, we note that all due precautions were taken to ensure that the identities of these minors were not revealed. We call upon the authorities to direct their indignation to the right sources such as the failure of the education system, and the systems of socialization to instill appropriate behavior. Shooting the messenger will not cause the message to go away,” it added.
Nation Publisher Vivian-Anne Gittens, Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris and senior journalist Sanka Price – the author of the story – were arrested and charged last week and each placed on $5,000 bail. They are due to reappear in court in March and each face the possibility of five years in jail for the criminal charge, which was brought under the Protection of Children’s Act.
The MAJ has therefore expressed extreme concern that the successful use of the legislation in this case would set a dangerous precedent and could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.