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...AG: Right to still sue

By By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

THERE is protection under the law to sue any media house or journalist who pub­lish­es libellous reports, says Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.

In piloting the Libel and Defama­tion (Amendment)Bill at the Parlia­ment sitting on Friday, Ramlogan explained  what Government was do­ing was removing one specific criminal law—Section 9 of the act, which had the potential to under­mine democracy. 

Section 9 of the Libel and Defa­mation Act, Chap 11:16, states: 

“If any person mali­ciously pub­-

lish­es any defa­matory libel, upon conviction thereof, he is liable to pay a fine and to impri­son­ment for one year.”

“The fact is that many persons would be able to allege that the media published untrue things against them. A provision such as Section 9, if it were to be strictly enforced, could have the effect of crippling the entire journalistic pro­fession,” Ramlogan said.

Ramlogan said despite claims made by detractors, the Govern­ment is not removing all the legal protections from individuals who may feel aggrieved by libellous publications.

Section 8 of the Libel and Defa­-

mation Act is to be retained, Ram­logan said.

Section 8 of the Libel and Defa­mation Act Chap 11:16 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.”

Ramlogan said the portion “knowing the same to be false” should be noted carefully.

“This is a very important phrase to be borne in mind, Mr Speaker, as it is this phrase ‘knowing the same to be false’ which differentiates Sec­tion 8 of the act, which is being retained, from Section 9 of the act, which is being removed,” Ramlogan said.

Government, he said, was not

inter­fering with the right of individ­uals to sue for libel.

“Individuals who feel aggrieved by any libellous publi­cation still have the option to sue for damages in our courts. Suing for damages, as you would know, is the form of redress that is usually and most commonly sought in this country for libel,” said Ramlogan.

He said Section 8 of the act will be retained and this ensures there is protection 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.

He said further, the mate­rial dif­ference between Section 8 and Section 9 is the prose­cution, under Section 8, needs to prove two elements of mens

rea, namely, malice and know-

­ledge, while un­der Section 9 of the act, the prose­cution only needs to prove one ele­ment, which is the element of malice.

It was easier, he said, for a per­son to be convicted under Section 9, which will now be removed.

Ramlogan tressed the need for a fair and responsible media.

The media, said Ramlogan, had the power to destroy a person’s life.

He quoted human rights acti­vist Malcolm X to empha­sise his point.

“The media’s the most pow­erful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty inno­cent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

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