Jamaica's press association is applauding an overhaul of the Caribbean country's libel law.

Media organizations have complained for years that the difficulty and cost of fighting lawsuits, along with the risk of punishing judgments, have stifled the press. Some say they have squashed potentially contentious stories because of the risk of being sued for big damages.

Now Parliament has passed a new defamation act that amends libel and slander laws. The Press Association of Jamaica says the amendments remove the provision of criminal libel and allow for a "wire service defense" that says local media organizations can use reports from reputable sources without first checking for accuracy.

Association President Jenni Campbell said Wednesday it's an "important step in increasing freedom of expression."