Court throws out gay suit against local TV stations

Court throws out gay suit against local TV stations

Paul Henry

Friday, November 15, 2013

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GAY-rights activist Maurice Tomlinson yesterday lost his bid in the Constitutional Court to have three national television stations air an advertisement promoting tolerance of homosexuals.

The court, comprising of Justices Paulette Williams, Bryan Sykes and Leighton Pusey, ruled that CVM and Television Jamaica (TVJ) reserved the right to air or not to air what they chose to.

As for the State-run Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ), which is the third defendant in the case, the court accepted that its policy didn't allow it to air paid advertisement.

Tomlinson's claim, the court noted, didn't challenge the constitutionality of the statute, regulation or policy under which the station is operated.

In May, Tomlinson's attorney Queen's Counsel Lord Gifford argued before the panel of three judges in the Supreme Court that the stations violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms by refusing to broadcast the advertisements.

The Charter, it had been argued, guarantees the right of Jamaicans to seek, receive, distribute, or disseminate information, opinions and ideas through any media.

But yesterday the court disagreed with the argument, noting that Tomlinson's rights are not more important than that of CVM and TVJ and that the right of freedom of expression doesn't give anyone the right to use another person's property to disseminate his views.

"The duty of broadcasters, who are granted licence to operate, is to cover public issues fairly and accurately but that does not mean they are under a legal obligation to provide anyone who wishes to speak on an issue access to the airwaves," read a section of the court's opinion.

The court noted also that every broadcaster, "private or public must retain editorial control over how it covers a particular issue...". CVM and TVJ, the court said, enjoy that journalistic discretion which is provided by the charter.

The claim was brought against TVJ, CVM and PBCJ by Tomlinson, a Jamaican attorney who married another man, Tom Decker, in Canada last year January.

Queen's Counsel Hugh Small represented CVM, Solicitor General Nicole Foster-Pusey appeared for PBCJ and Georgia Gibson-Henlin for TVJ.

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