Attorney Kenyatta Powell
Attorney Kenyatta Powell says the recent directive by the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) banning recorded material that promotes and glorifies illegal activities raises constitutional questions.
Speaking Thursday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106, Mr. Powell said while the BCJ has the power to regulate radio stations and free-to-air television, he is concerned about the manner in which it is exercising its authority.
He argues that the Broadcasting Commission must pass the constitutional test of necessity and proportionality in order to deprive people of the right to freedom of expression and the right to seek, receive, distribute or disseminate information, opinions and ideas through any media.
Mr. Powell questioned what link the Commission had made between the presence of certain songs on the radio that promote illegal activity and some "pressing societal issues".
He also believes the section of the Broadcasting Commission's directive, banning recorded material that promotes "any other illegal activity" is vague.
The attorney wondered whether a song that says "the system is oppressive" and encourages the challenging of this system would also be considered illegal since "most revolutionary activities, by their nature, would be defined as criminal when directed against the very systems they are trying to replace or to supplant".
Additionally, Mr. Powell has taken issue with a statement by Executive Director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica Cordel Green that further regulations are coming to the internet.
"I have been trying to find the legislative backing for that, and to be absolutely truthful, I'm not entirely convinced that it exists. But, what I will say is that I'm seriously sceptical about the Broadcasting Commission's ability to regulate what's happening over the internet," he asserted.
The attorney contended that dancehall music is being used as a scapegoat for the social ills facing Jamaica.
He argued instead that the problems facing the society are due to "the material reality under which people live, it has to do with oppression, it has to do with the logical and conscious decisions that people make for self preservation on a day-to-day basis".
The decision of people to engage in scamming or jungle justice, he continued, is not because music glorifies these activities. People partake in jungle justice, for instance, because many of them "do not trust the justice system to deliver clean, quick justice when it is necessary", he suggested.
In order to address these social ills, Mr. Powell urged the state to "focus on changing the material reality of ordinary Jamaicans instead of assuming that ordinary Jamaicans are so stupid that they're being programmed by 'choppa' music".