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Jamaica TV stations sued for rejecting pro-gay ads

Jamacian gay activist is to sue two Jamaican TV stations after they rejected paid pro gay awareness TV ads, alleging they breached Jamaica's constitutional charter on fundamental rights and freedoms
A scene from the diversity awareness ad 'Love and Respect', featuring activist Maurice Tomlinson being hugged by his mother, which Jamaican TV refused to air

Jamaica’s major television stations, CVM TV and TVJ, have previously refused to run paid ads calling on Jamaicans to love and respect their fellow citizens who happen to be gay.

Now the NGO AIDS-Free World’s legal advisor on marginalized groups, Maurice Tomlinson, a gay Jamaican who appears in the latest ad, is taking the stations to court for breaching his constitutional rights.

In its charter of fundamental rights and freedoms, Jamaica’s constitution guarantees the unique right to ‘seek, receive, distribute, or disseminate information, opinions and ideas through any media’ and requires everyone, including corporations, to respect this right.

Tomlinson will argue that the stations have violated the charter by rejecting the paid advertisement.

Speaking with Gay Star News Tomlinson said: ‘The stations’ refusal to air the “Love and Respect” ad is totally arbitrary and reflects the growing dominance of the powerful fundamentalist religious right in dictating public discourse’

Two years ago, the TV stations accepted AIDS-Free World’s payment and aired an ad that encouraged Jamaicans to respect the rights of gays. But since then, both CVM and TVJ have rejected two similar ads produced with the organization’s support.

TVJ explicitly cited the views of the church as critical to its broadcasting decision. Tomlinson, an attorney, hopes the court will use its discretionary powers to find that the stations violated the constitution by considering the ‘irrelevant matters’ of religious groups’ objections when they refused to air the ads.

He and AIDS-Free World expect that the court will instruct the stations to review the decisions they have made, and withdraw or explain them.

The case will be a landmark if the court issues a declaration stating the ways in which the charter has been violated. If the courts decide in favor of Tomlinson, they may ultimately mandate both stations to air the ad.

Tomlinson explained: ‘It’s clear that the TV stations would rather censor themselves than anger the conservative religious leaders. 

‘Jamaican media houses such as CVM and TVJ should be serving as guardians of our nation’s democracy. Instead, they are helping to exclude Jamaica’s gay citizens.

‘Clearly, broadcasters are succumbing to pressure by conservative religious factions: two years ago, before the churches’ anti-gay rights vehemence reached fever pitch, CVM and TVJ were happy to run our ad promoting tolerance.’

Tomlinson futher stated: ‘With this challenge, we are deliberately and frontally exposing the media's role in sustaining homophobia, which drives gay Jamaicans underground, away from HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions.’ 

‘Homophobia also prevents the government from properly targeting HIV services to the population most at risk. This contributes to a vastly disproportionate rate of HIV among Jamaicans: 32.9% of men who have sex with men are infected, as against 1.6% of the general population.

‘And since homophobic laws and violent hatred also force some gay men to form relationships with women to hide their true sexual orientation, there is “bridging” between gay and straight HIV epidemics. The consequence is nothing short of a nationwide public health crisis.’ 

You can watch below two of the ads available on youtube.

Love and Respect (featuring Maurice Tomlinson):

Unconditional Love for LGBT Jamaicans:

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