May 3 – The Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) joins with our Caribbean affiliates and Focal Points and the international community of journalists and media workers in observing World Press Freedom Day 2015.
Global observance of the occasion today focuses on the need for “quality journalism”, addressing the need to achieve greater gender balance in the media and the theme of digital safety.
“Let Journalism Thrive!” is the clarion call of the media community to nations of the world, some of them torn by internal and external strife, many of them in the throes of social and economic turmoil.
In the Caribbean, though we do not for the most part confront the most severe features of these difficulties, there is evidence that the potential for breaches in recognition of press freedom continues to exist.
Statements and recent reports from our national affiliates point to concerns relevant to the main theme of today’s observances but also alert us to emerging challenges related to sluggish timelines for the legislating of free access to official information and the repeal of criminal defamation laws, the employment of state advertising as both punishment and reward for media behaviour and the use of public resources to fuel attacks on journalists.
There is also evidence that the campaign against impunity led globally by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), to which the ACM as a member subscribes, is earning greater recognition in the Caribbean as a consequence of longstanding criminal cases in Haiti in the cases of Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor and in Guyana with respect to Ronald Waddell and more recently, newspaper columnist, Freddie Kissoon.
Today, we also add our voice to the call for justice in the killing of Trinidad and Tobago attorney, Dana Seetahal, a staunch supporter of the press and newspaper columnist herself, who was assassinated a year ago. We call for more decisive action by officials in this case.
We also recognise the importance of high quality journalism at times of election and note ongoing campaigns in Guyana, which goes to the polls on May 11; Suriname whose elections are due on May 25 and in Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent & the Grenadines where campaigning has effectively commenced ahead of elections due later this year and in early 2016 respectively.
The ACM calls on journalists in these countries to recognise the contribution of their work to the maintenance of peace and stability and the integrity of the elections process. Our Election Handbook for Caribbean Journalists published in 2009 speaks of “the ineluctable connection between democracy and the quality of journalism.”
It is a truism, gaining in recognition everywhere, that the independent work of journalists in covering elections can also serve as a catalyst for promoting the democratic conduct and outcomes of such exercises.
We call on journalists in the Caribbean countries approaching elections to pay greater attention to these key observations contained in our ground-breaking publication.
We extend our greetings to member organisations and focal points in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, our newest member in Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago. We also look forward to further dialogue with our colleagues in Cuba with whom we have begun a discussion on possible membership.
Best wishes on this special occasion for the media community and the societies they serve.