Belize Introduces Legal Protections for Media and Public Sector

Belize Introduces Legal Protections for Media and Public Sector

While the press hopes to be included in the constitution, recent amendments to the Criminal Code Act will see greater protection for members of the media and public sector. Cabinet has introduced legislation that will see the definition of aggravated assault expanded to protect prosecutors, judicial officers, public officers, members of the media, and teachers by upgrading the use of threatening words or behaviour to serious offenses. The recent change was highlighted on Monday with the assault of a court reporter in the line of duty. Minister of Education Francis Fonseca explained that the move is geared at improving the country’s democratic values and beliefs. 

Francis Fonseca Minister of Education: “Somebody told me that a defendant coming out of court was very aggressive with a court reporter. Yeah, exactly. I mean, those are the things that we have to, I think, be very firm about addressing. And that’s the whole purpose of the criminal amendments that we’re making and proposing. You know, we’ve had, as you all know, reports from the judiciary or magistrates in particular have been concerned about their security, their safety. We hear complaints as well from our immigration officers our customs officers our police officers of course, BDF, Coast Guard traffic officers you know and that reflects very poorly on us as a society. I know that sometimes these people are not properly trained and we have to do a better job of training them to deal with the public but we, the public, we also have to do our part. We have to understand that these people are there doing their job. We have to be respectful of them and understand that it’s not personal. It’s about doing their job and trying to create a law-abiding society. So these amendments were all about that and I hope that, as you said, they will address these issues such as a court reporter being aggressed by a defendant coming out of court. Very, very important that we send a very strong and clear signal to everybody that type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

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