Jamaica’s broadcasting regulator has banned music and television programs purporting to glorify or promote criminal activity, violence, drug use, scams and weapons.
The government said the ban is intended to reduce material that “could give the false impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society”.
Jamaican artists have criticized the measure, saying it excludes populations affected by increased gun violence from the conversation and will do little to stop crime.
“The art imitates life and the music comes from what is happening in Jamaica for real,” said Grammy Award-winning Jamaican producer and singer Stephen McGregor. “But because it doesn’t fit the moral mold of what they would like it to look like, they try to hinder it.”
The ban comes after years of the Caribbean nation’s struggle to end high levels of gun violence, which left Jamaica with the highest murder rate in Latin America and the Caribbean last year, according to Insight Crime Research Center.
The Jamaica Broadcasting Commission said in a statement that such music or video on public broadcasts “normalizes criminality among vulnerable and impressionable young people”.
The guideline also stated that chains should avoid “urban slang” that has anything to do with earning money, wire transfers, acquiring wealth or a lavish lifestyle. He quoted specific words such as: “jungle justice”, “bank/foreign account”, “food”, “wallet”, “purse”, “mobile phone” and “customer”.
But artists like McGregor, known by his stage name Di Genius, said he saw the ban as a free speech issue and that the Jamaican government would be better served to tackle the root causes of the protest. violence such as the economic crisis fueled by the pandemic.
The broadcasting commission declined to respond to AP’s request to comment on the criticisms and did not immediately detail the consequences of a breach. But the commission asked the public to report any suspected violators.
Jamaica has had such bans in place before, including one in 2009. McGregor, 32, said his own music had been banned from the airwaves throughout his career for mentioning sex and guns , but said the restrictions never really lasted.
Other Jamaican artists such as Rvssian, NotNice and Romeich have all taken to social media to criticize the directive.
Many mentioned that such a measure would have little practical effect on violence, especially because young people get their media from streaming platforms like Spotify or YouTube.
Rather, McGregor said, it’s a way to scapegoat artists for the state’s larger failures to address endemic problems and discontent.
“The music that comes out of it, people aren’t going to make happy music, feel good ‘one love, one heart’ under those circumstances,” McGregor said. “You can’t force creatives to paint a picture that’s not really in front of us.”