Antigua moving to abolish criminal defamationWednesday, June 25, 2014
ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) — The Antigua and Barbuda Government says it will, by next week, draft legislation abolishing criminal defamation.
Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin said the issue had been placed on the front burner of the new Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) Government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
It follows a statement by the Vienna-based International press Institute (IPI), calling on Prime Minister Gaston Brown to honour a commitment he gave when in Opposition to abolish criminal defamation on the island.
The IPI said that in April last year, together with representatives of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, they visited Antigua and held talks with the then Government of Baldwin Spencer and the Opposition Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, headed by Gaston Browne, on the issue.
In a statement, the IPI said that Browne had pledged "if the present Government does not repeal this legislation by 2014, the ALP will do so within 90 days of taking power".
Benjamin said that the draft legislation had been prepared by the former administration of Baldwin Spencer but was brought to Parliament for debate.
He told the Antigua Observer newspaper that the legislation "is something definitely on the front burner for us and it's something Prime Minister Gaston Browne wishes to have done.
"In keeping with the trend in the Commonwealth and most developed societies which passed similar legislation, we want to make sure we set an example by being one of the first to implement these changes."
The Libel and Slander Act of 1876 empowers the state to bring charges against individuals for any intentionally false communication that harms a person's reputation. Individuals convicted under this law could be jailed for up to two years.
The IPI said during its visit to Antigua and Barbuda, Browne referred to the current criminal defamation legislation in his country as "inimical" and gave his resounding support to IPI's campaign, which, over the past two years, has supported journalists in the region in their efforts to abolish criminal defamation.
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