Barbados police defend decision to charge journalists

(Trinidad Guardian) Barbados police have defended the decision to file criminal charges against three media workers in an ongoing secondary school sex scandal. Three senior officials of the Barbados Nation newspaper have been charged with showing an indecent photograph of two minors engaged in a sexual act. Nation publisher, Vivian-Anne Gittens, as well as the Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris and senior journalist Sanka Price, were placed on BDS$5,000 bail and ordered to hand over their travel documents after appearing in court on Thursday.

Price was the author of the article which was accompanied by the offending photograph. The matter has been adjourned to March 11, 2014. The Nation News is a subsidiary of One Caribbean Media, the parent company of the Trinidad Express and CCN TV6. The charges stem from the October 26 publication of an article headlined ‘Sex Scene’ and accompanying photograph based on the Facebook photo and cellphone video of two secondary school students having sex in a classroom.

The police are alleging that the photograph which accompanied the story was an indecent picture of two 14-year-olds in violation of Barbados’ Protection of Children Act. Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) Lionel M Thompson yesterday said that while it is important to acknowledge the critical role the “press plays in a liberal democratic society,” the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) was “legally bound to impartially enforce the criminal law, albeit humanely.”

Thompson said that he was constrained to speak in general terms on the case as it is sub judice. However, he said the police began “three parallel and simultaneous investigations” into the story that was carried in the Nation newspaper. “The charging of the three persons…represents the conclusion of one of the three investigations,” he said, adding that the second investigation had resulted in the charges being laid against the children.

“The other investigation remains open,” said Thompson, adding that in considering the charges against the media workers, the police “took full cognisance of the debates on the issues as the public saw them. In pursuing the three investigations, the RBPF came to the conclusion that there was enough evidence to support the charges that were brought, he said. He added that the RBPF had sought and followed the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the matter.

Two teenage boys, aged 16 and 15, who were allegedly responsible for capturing the act on film appeared in court on a charge of taking an indecent photograph some time between September 1 and October 31.

They were released on BDS$10,000 bail and placed on a 7.30 pm to 6 am curfew.

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