Defamation Laws In Belize
The law governing defamation in Belize is the Libel and Defamation Act, which went into effect December 31, 2000. Publication of a “fair and accurate report published in a newspaper or broadcast of proceedings of a public meeting” shall be considered privileged unless it is proved that such report or publication was published maliciously. In addition, “no criminal prosecution for libel or defamation shall commence against the publisher, proprietor or editor responsible for the publication of a newspaper for any libel published without the order of the court.”
In the case of In the Supreme Court of Belize, AD 2003, Cedric Flowers and Kay L. Menzies and Belize Port Authority¸ the court had the authority of to determine the amount of damages which may be awarded to the claimant.
When it comes to damages for defamation in Belize, the case must be considered “in the light of all its relevant and prevailing circumstances, and without the impediments of inapplicable restraints.” Hence, damages are judged on the singular merits and impressions or a given case, “which should take into account its special features [sic] the heinous nature of the defamation, the position and standing of the person defamed, the resulting harm and hurt caused, the [the] motivation behind the publication, the extent of the falsity and circumstances of aggravation, and the conduct of the defamers before, during and after the action for libel has been brought.” (Jagan v Burnham (1973) 20 WIR 96)
Email Defamation in Belize
In Belize, an email to an individual, which is not directed to the public at large, is not considered defamatory. However, if it can be proven that the email was published and sent via email to another person, and the emotional and psychological pain which the claimant suffered by virtue of its publication was significant, the injured party may be granted a defamation trial or hearing. (In the Supreme Court of Belize A.D. 2008, Claim No. 289 of 2008 between Rodolfo Ramos and Simeon Herrera)
Media Defamation Regulations in Belize
Although the Belize Constitution protects the right to freedom of expression, there are several legal limitations to that right. By way of illustration, the government may impose a fine of up to US$2,500 and imprison anyone for up to three years who will question the financial disclosures of public officials. Newspapers are subject to criminal defamation laws, and the Belize Broadcasting Authority holds the right to preview broadcasts with political content and remove material which it deems to be libelous.