Are people allowed to speak negatively about Vybz Kartel?


February 28, 2017
In this 2014 photo, Vybz Kartel (centre) left the Home Circuit Court in Kingston.
Lisa Hanna

After Vybz Kartel's near-sweep of the Youth View Awards, some public officials made some comments about his eligibility and what it means, even though he is a convicted criminal serving a life sentence.

South East St Ann Member of Parliament and former Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna joined the conversation and suggested that she feels the artiste's music should be banned from the radio. She was then subject to a myriad of disgusting comments, including multiple threats, and other violent gestures were made on social media.

As an advocate, a Jamaican and a woman, it would be remiss of me to see all of this activity and not say anything.

First, let me just say that I was taken aback with how quickly we went from the clarion call to 'end violence against women' to making several threats, some too graphic to repeat here. After reading some of the comments myself, I couldn't help but ask myself: Why all the hate? Is she not allowed to speak? Why get into her personal life and threaten to harm her? Do fans of Vybz Kartel feel like no one is allowed to speak negatively about the artiste?

I was appalled and very concerned, because the reaction of these people actually makes her point - we live in a society that has gotten so rotten, we cannot even express thoughts without threats on our lives.


Let me look at her statement itself; I am not a fan of censorship, so I don't think that banning the music will work in the way we expect. I do agree that some content is not fit for airplay and the Broadcasting Commission and similar agencies exist to police those media.

There are songs with adult content - sexually explicit and violence. As far as I am aware, these songs are already not allowed to be played on the air.

Also, the most vulnerable group, children, who are supposed to be protected from these lyrics, don't habitually listen to radio, they are more likely to get their music online. Also, history has proven that banning a song only increases the popularity of the song and the artiste, so any such ban may only increase Vybz Kartel's popularity.

Another issue that I have with Hanna's statement is this constant knee-jerk reaction that politicians have to blame entertainment for the ills of society, when entertainment is really reflection of what is going on in our society. So if we should have a real change in the quality for the music, we perhaps need to address the issues in society.

Also, what does it say about dancehall that their most popular and relevant artiste is an incarcerated criminal serving time for murder. Is it that the other artistes are not performing at the level to keep dancehall going without Vybz Kartel?


Another and more pressing issue is the fact that the artiste seems to be recording, without permission, while he's incarcerated. Shouldn't that be something that is addressed through law enforcement? Isn't that an issue that can swiftly be rectified by getting the authorities involved?

Ultimately, the fact remains that regardless of where you stand on the issues, respect is necessary if we expect to continue living in a civilized country. We cannot expect this type of unacceptable, violent reaction every time there is a disagreement about an issue. We can be better, so we should do better and try to set the examples that we want to see in our children.

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