Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is Freedom Of Expression At Risk? asks JFLAG advocate

It may seems so if we are to follow the more vocal and strident anti gay voices as previously latent or dormant feelings have been reawakened in light of the Bain matter. Sometimes I wonder when I see some articles and the folks behind them, does Mr Nelson not realise the public relations nightmare the organization he is linked to JFLAG is now facing and that the work done by previous advocates to get to some real semblance of tolerance has been wiped out by the poor monitoring and subsequent late action by some of his superiors?

Does he not understand the implications of the secular humanist ambit that was added to the public advocacy and yet they expect a tolerance message to resonate with an already cynical public? There seems to be hypocrisy on all sides with the JCHS head complaining of name calling by gay advocates yet he (Dr Wayne West) has no trouble eloquently reeling them off such as "The “utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist” , neocolonial ,imperialist, anti-free speech, thought- policing, intolerant ,belligerent , Mujahideen , ayatollahs of anal, Taliban Gaystapo." (taken from his blog) he also tries to claim that:

"TTT maintains that up to about five years ago the author would have not resisted removal of Jamaica’s buggery.

Testifyingtotruth has no intention of peeping into anyone bedrooms but is even more committed to make sure that no one removes Jamaican’s fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and parental rights and this is the clear objective of the LGBT lobby which one sees unfolding in western democracies.

Testifyingtotruth is therefore committed to resisting this fascist, stalinist, neocolonial, imperialist, anti-free speech, thought policing political movement.

We do not hold the view that all LGBT persons are a part of this political movement nor do we support violence or any physical harm to LGBT persons."

Recent radio interviews with the gentleman suggests otherwise to me, take a look at this Observer report.

see Wayne West @ 1:15

The business of ethics and integrity comes into play here ON ALL SIDES involved and I notice there is very little emphasis placed on these two tenets of public advocacy especially with regards to Jamaica advocacy both on an LGBTQI front and HIV Prevention work and now obviously missing in the holy religious groups and voices as well.

Tit for tat anyone? how can there be dialogue now even in the face of a religious voice (though a foreigner) calling for the LGBT community not to give up on the church: 

see: Integrity of Jamaican LGBT Advocate Questioned, named as student loan delinquent

The religious groups feel they are being stifled as well as music artists when the action taken though justified in many respects has not been properly timed especially in relation to the bigger strategic goals of the HIV prevention strategies, one may even question the moral authority some folks have when calling out Professor Bain for conflic of interest when said COI is evident in the very groups who did so, the incestuous nature at the management and direction levels of some organizations is questionable then we wonder why decisions and indeed ethics are missing. Attaching the Charter of Rights in this on the context of freedom of speech and not of LGBT rights and recognition seems a little disingenuous to me and some other folks who have commented on this piece and why wasn't this espoused long before the present impasse?

There needs to be some major changes in the strategies on public advocacy on LGBT issues and a clear separation of persons who themselves seems so conflicted that they cannot speak in their official capacities and alternate as it seems fit. Conflict of interest indeed.

Adding insult to injury that in the middle of the furore that is cementing of free speech suppression perceptions in the national pysche JFLAG chooses to launch a media guide on how journalists should use or not certain terms, the RJR interview with Dionne Jackson Miller was clear as the snickers in between the dialogue with Jaevion on May 22nd just indicated the madness of it all as she asked him "You don't think that that might stir resentment amongst professional journalists who are saying who are you to be telling me what to ask?" sometimes I wonder if the J is in the real world? George Davis of Nationwide radio also made dissenting remarks as well to the effect that what right have they (JFLAG) to tell journalists what to say, one could easily see how this also plays into the belief that freedom of expression is being stifled, such a glossary or guide should have been out and on their website eons ago as was agreed in a meeting I attended when Dr Robert Carr was alive and the Chair of the then management committee but such are the repercussions of late action and poor pro-activity.

Here is the article by Jaevion Nelson (limited free viewing, paid subscription may be needed to see it in full)

Freedom of expression/speech is arguably one of the most fundamental rights we enjoy. If nothing else, Betty-Ann Blaine, Daniel Thomas and Shirley Richards, who have been at the forefront of recent protests at the University of the West Indies, subsequent to the removal of Professor Brendan Bain as head of CHART, are right about its importance.

While the public has been misled into believing that the Bain-UWI-Civil Society issue is about freedom of expression, it gives us an opportunity to have a discussion on this important issue.

Ever so often, an alarm is raised about a possible threat to this important right and we are prodded into some sort of action. What really is freedom of expression? How is freedom of expression being threatened and by whom? What does the Constitution of Jamaica and international law say about freedom of expression? How do we protect this right? These are questions we should be asking regardless of our conviction on the Bain issue or gay rights.

According to the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), "freedom of expression is a principle contained in various human rights documents. Its objective is to ensure that people are able to communicate and express opinions, in public, private, either written or spoken, without the interference of the state or others."

Section 13(3)(c) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom guarantees this. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Jamaica became party to on December 19, 1966, articulates that (1) "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and (2) "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

Simply put, it means that people do have a right to have dissenting views on any issue. Secularists are free to express their views about religion and the need to separate the Church from the State. Pastors can say casino gambling and flexi-work week are dangerous and should not be supported. Gay rights advocates can say that Parliament has no business in their bedroom. Christians can certainly say homosexuality is 'unnatural' and is immoral.


One thing missing from the chants and protests is the fact that freedom of expression is not an absolute right; that there are limitations. As APC notes on their website, "it generally only has applicability where the purpose of expression is lawful, and where the act of expression does not infringe on the human rights of others."

Article 19(3) of the ICCPR further states that "The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; [and] (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals."

With rights come responsibilities. It is important for us to be mindful that we don't harm or restrict the rights of other people in exercising or enjoying our freedom of expression. Those who are overcome with anxiety that this right is being threatened must consider the fact that people, regardless of position in society, will and must be held accountable for what they say.

I do concede that in some cases when people are held accountable for what they have said about a minority group, it is not always justified. Human rights activists must understand that balance is critical in this regard. Not everything said is necessarily offensive and no matter how ridiculous something may sound, it is not always reason to lobby for sanctions to be applied to an individual. The oppressed should never become the oppressor.

Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to and

Readers you decide it is clear to me that there is just some aimless movements in as far as advocacy is concerned and it just stinks.

Peace and tolerance



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