Isaac takes issue with plans to censor media, noting that legislation to control defamation already exists

The chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP) is taking
umbrage at recent statements made by Information Minister
Melford Nicholas on the Administration’s plans to censor online
news outlets.

According to Nicholas, the Browne Cabinet is considering legislation
to stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation by some
online media, including those it accuses of having a political agenda.
He said that some outlets are also allowing the public to use their
sites to vilify and defame other people.

Nicholas also claimed the Administration does not want to embark
on this type of censorship, knowing that media practitioners will not
appreciate the move.
However, the UPP chair, D.Gisele Isaac, says that legislation already
exists to deal with slanderous or libelous statements, and there are
procedures that media houses must follow if accused of defamation.
Accordingly, Isaac is curious to know what new legislation the
Administration is trying to introduce.

Isaac points out that the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda gives
individuals the right to freedom of speech, and the United Nations
recognizes free speech as a human right, as well.

Hence, she says that persons have the right to voice their opinion,
once it does not fall into the category of libel or slander – for which
there is recourse.

Meanwhile, even as Nicholas is accusing some publications of having
a political agenda, Isaac says there is no bigger political promoter
than State media – ABS – which, ironically, is taxpayer funded.
According to the UPP chair, the Government is seeking to limit the
people’s freedoms of expression and association, and their right to
information in what has become a globalized age.

She says that, according to the United Nations, even access to the
Internet is now a human right, and therefore no government should
seek to keep people in the dark.
Meanwhile, Isaac says that Labour Party administrations were able
to stay in office for such long periods because of their control of the

However, she notes, this is a new era, and no one should be barred
by legislation from accessing information, just because it might be
deemed damaging to that particular regime.