Guest Comment: CALYPSO WILL CALL YOUR NAME!

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After the last clod of earth would have been shovelled onto Calypso as her cold body lies unceremoniously in her final resting place, I can see many heads bowing in shame for not having stood up for Calypso!
Calypsonians will be haunted by the voice of Calypso—her blood crying out in the sands of cowardice, malice, envy, deceit and lack of fortitude to challenge the Antigua & Barbuda Defamation Act of 2015. Ironically, calypsonians are actually singing Sanki for Calypso long before her demise! And suspected Calypso slayers have been named!
According to the Defamation Act of 2015, one of the principal objects is to “ensure that the law relating to the tort of defamation does not place unreasonable limits to freedom of expression and, in particular, on the publication and discussion of topics of public interest and importance.”
In addition, the Act provides a variety of ‘defences’ that claimants and defendants in defamation cases may use in protection of their integrities. Those ‘privileges’ may be ‘absolute’ or ‘qualified’.
Public figures may use the ‘absolute privilege’ defence. It is general knowledge that defamatory words spoken in Parliament are immune from prosecution because it is deemed that the public would have interest in receiving the information delivered in Parliament. And, without a doubt, Parliamentarians make absolute use of the privilege!
On the other hand, media houses and calypsonians by virtue of the innate duties have the ‘privilege’ of satisfying the public’s interest in certain pertinent matters and may use the ‘qualified privilege’ defence which upholds the constitutional right to freedom of expression and of press.
So why do calypsonians just stand and look on as Calypso suffers vigilante justice when they have the ‘privilege’ that protects the the calypso singer from prosecution on account of Calypso’s historical, moral, legal and social duty to the public as deliverer of pertinent information of general interest?
Up and down the chain of Caribbean islands, calypsonians are trying to assert their rights given the quintessential significance of Calypso to our celebration of emancipation from slavery immortalised in our carnivals. Personally, I believe that Calypso, by sheer virtue of its historical importance, should automatically invoke the ‘defence of qualified privilege’ as provided by the 2015 defamation Act. And, with the crafty penning of lyrics, the calypsonian should be free from fear of reprisals.
I believe that expression of thought through Calypso should be given immunity from legal prosecution or we shall witness the demise of calypso—of the spirit of Calypso (the worst kind of death).
This is so because, according to the Defamation Act of 2015, as long as the calypso is published to another person, is deemed injurious and a ‘reasonable’ thinking person can identify the subject (politician/public figure/individual) who feels aggrieved by the lyrics of a calypso, there is ground to claim defamation.
Without a doubt, the lyricist/calypso writer is effectively strong-armed! This means that no matter how ‘masked’ the message or how crafty the word crafting, the court will be unsympathetic. So even if the calypsonian/lyricist tries to obey Gipsy’s advice to not bowl straight, the judicial umpire is most likely to penalise for ‘suspicious bowling action’!
I therefore call upon calypsonians to band together (with support from civil society) to seek judicial review of the Defamatory Act of 2015 that craftily uses the premise of perceived malice to nullify their rightful defence. Or, Calypso shall surely engrave their names on the Calypso Wall of Shame.

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