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Jamaica bans broadcasting music and TV deemed to glorify drugs or crime

The government said the ban is meant to cut back on material that “could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society.”
Turntable used by DJs for making electronic music and scratching.
The ban comes after years of struggle by the Caribbean country to halt high levels of gun violence.Brother's Art / Alamy
/ Source: Associated Press

Jamaica’s broadcasting regulator has banned music and TV broadcasts deemed to glorify or promote criminal activity, violence, drug use, scamming and weapons.

The government said the ban is meant to cut back on material that “could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society.”

Jamaican artists criticized the measure, saying it cuts populations affected by heightened gun violence out of the conversation, and that it will do little to stop crime.

“Art imitates life, and the music is coming from what is happening in Jamaica for real,” said Stephen McGregor, a Jamaican Grammy Award-winning music producer and singer. “But because it doesn’t fit the moral mold of what they would like it to look like, they try to hamper it.”

The ban comes after years of struggle by the Caribbean nation to halt high levels of gun violence, which caused Jamaica to have the highest murder rate in Latin America and the Caribbean last year, according to research center Insight Crime.

ASCAP 2017 Rhythm & Soul Music Awards Stephen Di Genius McGregor
Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor.Earl Gibson III / Getty Images file

The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica said in a release that such music or video on public broadcasts “normalize criminality among vulnerable and impressionable youth.”

The directive also said that channels should avoid “urban slang” that has anything to do with making money, wire transfers, acquiring wealth or a lavish lifestyle. It cited specific words like: “jungle justice,” “bank/foreign account,” “food,” “wallet,” “purse,” “burner phone” and “client.”

But artists like McGregor, known by his artist name Di Genius, said he viewed the ban as a free speech issue, and that the Jamaican government would be better served addressing root causes of violence like the pandemic-fueled economic crisis.

The broadcasting commission declined to respond to AP’s request for comment on criticisms, and did not immediately detail the consequences of a violation. But the commission asked the public to report any alleged violators.

Jamaica has implemented such bans previously, including one in 2009. McGregor, 32, said his own music has been banned from airwaves throughout his career for making mentions of sex and guns, but said restrictions never really lasted.

Other Jamaican artists such as Rvssian, NotNice, and Romeich have all come out on social media slamming the directive.

Many made mention that such a measure would have little practical effect on violence, especially because youth get their media from streaming platforms like Spotify or YouTube.

Rather, McGregor said, it’s a way to scapegoat artists for larger state failures to address endemic problems and discontent.

“The music that comes from that, people are not going to be creating happy, feel good ‘one love, one heart’ music in those circumstances,” McGregor said. “You can’t force the creatives to paint a picture that’s not really in front of us.”