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Free-to-air TV stations sued

Jamaica's two free-to-air television stations have been hit with a lawsuit that could have long-term implications for how they deal with advertising. Attorney-at-law Maurice Tomlinson has brought the action because both stations have refused to air an advertisement that promotes tolerance for homosexuals.

Mr. Tomlinson has asked for a declaration that the stations breached his fundamental right to free speech, and his constitutional right to distribute and disseminate information, which are guaranteed by the charter. He also wants an order directing the stations to air the advertisement, as well as damages. 
   

He also claimed that the broadcast licenses of the stations gives them an obligation to operate the stations in the public interest, and it is in the public interest that homosexuals be free to distribute information about themselves for greater understanding in the society.
He argued that both stations control the bulk of the market, so denying access for the advertisement, is restricting his right to distribute and disseminate information, as outlined in section 13 of the Charter. The immediate question that arises is whether private commercial entities such as these stations, can be compelled to air someone's advertisement.
Mr. Tomlinson's attorney, Anika Gray, explained that based on the charter, this may be done.  She added that even where the stations refuse to air the commercial on moral grounds, there is case law to suggest that this is not enough to prevent a breach of the free speech right. 

According to Ms Gray the parties will be served on Monday.
If this case proceeds to the highest level of the court system, it could change for how stations go about accepting and rejecting advertisements.

The claim that was filed on Friday in the Supreme Court is based on the new Charter of Fundamental Rights.



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