Region observes World Press Freedom Day
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 3, CMC – Caribbean media workers were gathering in the Dutch island of Curacao for a three-day conference as part of the activities marking World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) on Friday.
The conference in Willemstad is being organised by the press association there in conjunction with the Jamaica-based UNESCO Caribbean Office and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM).
The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), one of the oldest media groups in the Caribbean, said in its message that a free press, though critical to democracy, can be a scary proposition.
“It is not unusual for Caribbean governments to declare their commitment to press freedom and the rights of journalists to pursue responsible and fearless journalism.
“However, it is equally not unusual for the region’s governments to accuse media of interference, and, especially from political platforms, single out for grievous tongue lashing particular practitioners who the politicians believe have done too good a job at exposing double speak or wrong information.
“Nothing upsets a government more than checked facts and the exposure of corruption. Even so, as journalists, we know that our political leaders are grateful for and supportive of a free press ,” the PAJ said.
It said that while the Caribbean has not yet reached the stage of its counterparts in Latin America or Africa where journalists are murdered or jailed as a result of their work, “if current trends continue unabated, it won’t be long before we get there”.
The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) said the struggle for a press that is independent from governmental, political or economic control continues in most parts of the world.
“World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity not only to celebrate the fundamental principle of press freedom but to assess the state of that freedom throughout the world.”
MATT said that despite the constitutional rights afforded to the local media, journalists and other media workers in Trinidad and Tobago “have faced their share of challenges over the past months” and welcomed this week’s announcement by the government that criminal libel will be removed from the law books as “ a major step toward enhancing press freedom in Trinidad and Tobago.
“MATT now awaits the promised amendments to the Data Protection Act, another piece of legislation which has the potential to negatively affect the work of journalists in this country,” the group said.
In his message marking WPFD, United Nations Secretary General Bank Ki-moon said freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a cornerstone of good governance, sustainable development, and lasting peace and security.
“Yet every day around the world, journalists and media workers are under attack. They face intimidation, threats and violence from governments, corporations, criminals or other forces that wish to silence or censor. “
WPFD is being observed with the theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media” and the UN Secretary General said it highlights the need for action to upholding the right of journalists to carry out their vital work.
“From traditional media platforms such as radio, print and television, to newer and more and more popular social media, blogs and citizen-led reporting, journalists are increasingly at risk,” he said, noti9ng that over the past decade, more than 600 journalists have been killed, with 120 in the past year alone. He said the United Nations system has established a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and that it aims to raise awareness and to support practical steps to create a free and safe working environment for journalists.
May 3, 2013 marks 20 years since the proclamation of World Press Freedom Day. It is also the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, the landmark statement put together by journalists in Africa in 1991, which calls for “free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide, characterising a free press as essential to democracy and as a fundamental human right.”