The issue was raised during a recent forum at the Norman Manley Law School, where law students participated in an oral competition on Article 13 - Freedom of Thought and Expression - of the American Convention on Human Rights. Discussion of Section 5 of Article 13 indicated that it expressly prohibits "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitements to lawless violence or to any other similar action against any person or group of persons on any grounds including those of race, colour, religion, language or national origin".
The Jamaican society has been grappling with the issue of violence in music. While the Broadcasting Commission has imposed regulations against the airing and timing of lewd content, it has been less effective in reducing violent content.
The commission's hand would be strengthened if - as stated in Section 5 of Article 13 - Parliament introduced hate-crime laws to punish offenders. With the legislature now drafting legislation to reform the defamation laws, this might be an opportune time to enact hate-crime laws.
This could, perhaps, be an additional tool for the Broadcasting Commission, which recently has come under criticism as ineffective in policing the airwaves. Of course, foul-mouthed artistes could present a defence based on Section 1 of Article 13 that guarantees the right to freedom of thought and expression. "This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art or through any other medium of one's choice."
But, as the law students argued last week, each of the five sections in Article 13 has to be interpreted along with the others. It is Section 2 that permits the dilution of Section 1 on the grounds of the protection of national security, public order, or public health or moral.
The law students acquitted themselves well, demonstrating a fair grasp of press freedom legal cases in the Americas and Europe. The staging of the law school's oral presentation competition coincided with the visit to the island last week of Catalina Botero Marino, special rapporteur on freedom of expression to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
She was among the panel of judges for the competition, which included Norman Manley Law School principal, Professor Stephen Vasciannie; The Gleaner's Senior Counsel, Shena Stubbs-Gibson; Bianca Collins, United States Embassy human rights officer; and your writer.
Byron Buckley is associate editor - special projects. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Article 13 - American Convention on Human Rights
Freedom of Thought and Expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice.
2. The exercise of the right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law to the extent necessary to ensure: a. respect for the rights or reputations of others; or b. the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.
3. The right of expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or means, such as the abuse of government or private controls over newsprint, radio broadcasting frequencies, or equipment used in the dissemi-nation of information, or by any other means tending to impede the communication and circu-lation of ideas and opinions.
4. Notwithstanding the pro-visions of paragraph two above, public entertainments may be subject by law to prior censor-ship for the sole purpose of regulating access to them for the moral protection of childhood and adolescence.
5. Any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitements to lawless violence or to any other similar action against any person or group of persons on any grounds, including those of race, colour, religion, language, or national origin shall be considered as offences punishable by law.