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Musicians criticise ban that includes ‘urban slang’ to do with making money or acquiring wealth
Jamaican artists have criticised the broadcasting commission’s ban on music and TV deemed to promote crime.
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 has 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”.
Some Jamaican artists criticised the measure saying it will do little to stop crime and will cut out of the conversation populations affected by heightened gun violence.
“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 mould of what they would like it to look like, they try to hamper it.”
The ban comes after efforts by authorities in the Caribbean nation to halt high levels of gun violence. Jamaica had the highest murder rate in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021, according to research centre Insight Crime.
The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica said that such music or video on public broadcasts “normalise 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 and phrases like: “jungle justice”, “bank/foreign account”, “food”, “wallet”, “purse”, “burner phone” and “client”.
But artists like McGregor, known in the music world as 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 a pandemic-fuelled economic crisis that has hit the country.
The broadcasting commission did not detail what consequences of a violation would entail, and declined to respond to a request for comment on criticisms of the ban. The commission asked the public to report any alleged violators.
Jamaica has implemented such bans in the past, including one in 2009. McGregor said his own music had been banned from the country’s airwaves throughout his career for making mentions of sex and guns, but restrictions never really lasted.
Other Jamaican artists such as Rvssian, NotNice and Romeich have all come out on social media slamming the directive.
Many said that such a measure would have little practical effect on violence, especially because most young people get their media from streaming platforms like Spotify or YouTube.
McGregor said it was a way to scapegoat artists for larger state failures to address endemic problems and discontent.
“People are not going to be creating happy, feelgood ‘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.” (The Guardian)