Concerns Arise Over Proposed Criminal Code Amendment Potentially Limiting Media Freedom

Concerns Arise Over Proposed Criminal Code Amendment Potentially Limiting Media Freedom

In news pieces aired recently, we told you of the decision made by Cabinet to amend the Criminal Code.  It is an amendment that would limit the news reports and the publication of videos and information that could hamper an investigation.  It is a wide net that could seek to attack reporters or media practitioners in the line of duty.  Our newsroom sought some clarity on this amendment that is in the pipeline, but the Attorney General, Anthony Sylvestre, seems to be unclear, at this juncture, what the amendments would include.

Anthony Sylvester, Attorney General: “So we haven’t finalized on the draft. And so that is an issue that certainly will be taken into account as it relates to how we ought  to deal with that. But suffice it to say these are very engaging and very, very live issues because the responsibility and obligation of the media is such that, and we appreciate and the government appreciates and understands there is the need at times to foray out things which, you know at times perhaps maybe it’s not that forthcoming. And so I take your point and I understand that and I can only respond in this way to say that it will be taken on board in the drafting of the legislation.”

As AG Sylvestre is still determining the elements of the amendment, the former Attorney General Francis Fonseca conceded that with such a change, the media should take caution.

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “It came obviously from the Ministry of Home Affairs. The minister, I think, is obviously best placed to respond to that question. But I know we had a discussion about it in cabinet. I raised the issue of the press, freedom of the press, and what impact it would have on the press. And the minister assured me that you know that he felt comfortable that it would not and that certainly that there would be an opportunity if any issues arose in terms of concerns from the press that he would make an effort to address those issues so you know I’m comfortable with that at this point but I think it’s legitimate for the for the press to be concerned about that issue. I think it’s justified because you your job is to ensure that there is an accountability transparency. You want as much information as possible and that’s good for democracy so I support that but at the same time as I said I think the minister means well, the ministry means well and I think if there are any legitimate concerns that you have the minister will address them in good faith.”

According to the Cabinet Brief released on June 13, the amendment would seek to, ‘criminalize the unauthorized publication, dissemination or disclosure of statements, documents, video footage, photographs, or other materials that form part of an ongoing criminal investigation that can endanger the lives of witnesses and compromise the integrity of investigations.’

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