Government Moves to Regulate Social Media “News” blogs
Social media blogs claiming to be legit and credible sources of news will soon be streamlined as the government is looking to put regulations in place. The move comes on the heels of a publication by Hot off the Press that seemingly sought to discredit two women who recently made rape reports against a Belize City attorney. The report was viewed by many, including government ministers, as being vile, unprofessional, and unacceptable. Last week, the matter came up in a Cabinet meeting, and according to Minister of Political and Constitutional Reform, Henry Charles Usher, the discussion centered on the attempts to attack the alleged victims.
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform: “Certainly Cabinet cannot influence in any way if any charges will be brought against the individual. But I believe the discussion came out of more the social media blogs that are operating as though they are media outlets. And that was the more general discussion where they have to be regulated. Just like any media house is regulated these sites seem to pop up overnight there’s no regulations, they don’t seem to have any accountability to anyone, they publish articles, blogs, whatever you want to call them, that it seems that they are untouchable and I believe that’s where the discussion came out. Certainly that blog having to do, showing the video from the night of the incident, talking about the individuals, the persons, the virtual complainants, that borders on witness intimidation. It also creates an environment where other women, other girls may not want to come forward if this happens because they fear that they might be blasted on one of these social media outlets. So that’s where the discussion came out and that’s where Cabinet’s focus is on to make sure that they have some kind of regulations in place. The Belize Broadcasting Authority had created a policy last year and it spoke about regulating these sites. We hope that the legislation comes soon.”
Belize City Deputy Mayor Allan Pollard also spoke about the need to regulate online news outlets that publish articles targeting public figures. He says that attempts were recently made by Hot off the Press to discredit him and spread false reports.
Allan Pollard Jr, Deputy Mayor of Belize City: “I think there was a situation I think a week or two ago where I was listening to Jules kind of stating the dangers of these illegitimate media houses, these Facebook pages posing as media houses and how dangerous that is just spewing out any type of misinformation out there and expecting a reaction from the public. You know which is very dangerous and of course it’s something that has grown over time trending so we have to deal with it especially now with politics at the peak. But all of it is nonsense, garbage and they’re just pulling at straws because this council has been doing tremendous work and it’s hard to match up slate by slate and to really look at their slate as something viable. So they’re using it as a ploy to try to defame the council and myself in the process and you know everybody who knows better can see right through their tactics.”
We’ll continue to monitor the GOB’s attempt to set in place government policies for online outlets