PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said the local media is “fearless” and critical to maintaining freedom and democracy in TT. She made this statement at a media luncheon at the Diplomatic Centre shortly after receiving the 2013 Democracy Medal from International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC) chairman Matthew McMillan. Persad-Bissessar was awarded the Medal jointly with Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller.
Persad-Bissessar said, “With all free nations, one of the hallmarks of Caribbean democracy has been the very fearless and unhindered functioning of the media.” Saying her commitment and her government’s commitment have been repeatedly demonstrated over time, Persad-Bissessar said Government laid the Libel and Defamation Amendment Bill 2013 in Parliament. She explained this bill will repeal Section 9 of the Libel and Defamation Act ensuring that “ no journalist can be charged and prosecuted under Section 9 of the Act for malicious publication of any defamatory libel.” However Section 8 of the Act remains in force. This section states: “ If any person maliciously publishes any defamatory libel, knowing the same to be false, he is liable on conviction to imprisonment for two years and to pay such fine as the court directs.” While noting the local media “may not have always gotten it right,” Persad-Bissessar said, “I have observed, they remain continuously striving towards excellence.” Hours before the luncheon, the Office of the Prime Minister corrected a newspaper report which erroneously reported that Persad-Bissessar was visiting Golden Grove Prison yesterday. That visit was conducted by the special Prisons Committee appointed by Persad-Bissessar on Monday.
Communication Minister Gerald Hadeed noted there have been cases of friction between Government and the media, but said both sides are committed to the country’s development.
McMillan said IAPC awarded Persad-Bissessar and Simpson-Miller this year’s medal to “publicly acknowledge the rising role of women in democracies around the world.”