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Media laws will be amended to include online publications

The government is considering amending legislation related to the media to include and regulate the operations of online news media outlets operating in Antigua and Barbuda.

This position follows court sanctions against two online publications who were required to issue public letters of apology for articles they published via their portals.

Minister of Information, Medford Nicholas, said regulating online news media has been discussed with Attorney General, Steadroy Benjamin, who will examine the matter.

Last Thursday, Nicholas said in his capacity as information minister, he has been concerned about the laxity in the rules governing online publications.

He added that online publications, such as Antigua Newsroom, have been invited to participate in the government’s weekly Cabinet Briefings along with mainstream media houses, however, they have not accepted these invitations.

“There needs to be a new legislative framework governing these issues. The question now is, what current legislation would govern these entities that are doing major publications.

“From my perspective, that would be the Newspaper Act. Clearly, electronic production of news as is now being done, how do we bring sanctions to bear on a media house if they are not prepared to comply?

“At the very least, for the protection of all concerned, a media house ought to be able to publish its editor [and] producer. We should know the name of the editor in the event of libel or tort so that he [or] she could be brought to answer questions,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas revealed that he first drew attention to these online media sources during a parliamentary session in 2021 when one such outlet published “reckless statements” which he thought action should have been taken to address.

Last week, President of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), Joanne Massiah, called for the establishment of a Broadcasting Commission who will monitor and hold media workers accountable for their work and conduct.

Massiah’s statement was triggered after the host of a programme on an United Progressive Party aligned radio station described some supporters of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party as “political prostitutes”.

Information, Broadcasting and Telecommunications Minister Nicholas has said a Broadcasting Commission can only come into being after major changes are made to the Telecommunications Act.

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