Update on 18 Degrees North

Yesterday I reblogged a post from Emma Lewis, who had received an email from Common Good Productions. The email alerts people to the fact that TVJ decided not to air a segment from investigative television show 18 Degrees North. TVJ allegedly made this decision because it is currently involved in a lawsuit from activist Maurice Tomlinson.

Here is an update from Mr. Tomlinson on the court case, which challenges his right to self-expression after television stations would not air commercials promoting tolerance towards homosexuals:

The case was heard over a week at the end of May and the court has reserved judgment. We had expected the decision to be handed down in September, but that did not happen. As this was the first constitutional claim brought under the new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms 2011, and since several issues with regard to the tests to be used to interpret the new rights, especially when they are being claimed against private citizens, I suspect the Constitutional Court is making sure they adopt and prescribe the right principles to balance these rights. For example, in Canada the provincial Human Rights Tribunals hear complaints of human rights violations against citizens, while the courts hear constitutional claims against the government. In Jamaica, we now have a “one-stop shop” where all claims of human rights violations, whether against the government or an individual, must be heard by the constitutional court. Before there was nothing which constrained private citizens (like the TV stations who refused to air the tolerance ad) to observe the rights of other citizens.

The 18 Degrees North story features Micah Fink, the producer of The Abominable Crime, which looks at what it is like to be homosexual in Jamaica. Suffice it to say, it is neither a safe nor pleasant existence for many people. According to Burton, TVJ called her at 7 p.m. the evening the segment was supposed to air (18 Degrees North airs on TVJ at 8:30pm). Please watch the segment here.

18 Degrees North is a half-hour show comprised of three segments. So now Burton’s show is short of content through no fault of her own. And having reported on and produced one of these segments myself, I now know how much time and energy goes into these short pieces. Burton told me that the explanation TVJ executives gave her was that the station is “in a lawsuit with Maurice Tomlinson. It is still pending and by airing the tape of that film it would prejudice the case. It shortened my entire show and we got complaints from people about that.” For now, Burton will not pursue this with TVJ, which did not provide the public with any explanation.

I’m not sure if this qualifies as censorship or not. Certainly, the court case complicates the matter. Jamaica’s censorship regulations provide no more clarity, and it is of course in the purview of a private television station to determine what they air or not. In any case, I thought this issue should be explained.

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