KINGSTON — Minister with responsibility for Information, Telecommunications and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz, says he is pleased with Jamaica's high press freedom ranking of 23 out of the 191 countries surveyed in the 2011 Freedom of the Press report.
“At a time when Freedom House reports that the proportion of the world's population that has access to a free Press declined to its lowest point in a decade last year, and when only 15 per cent of the global population live in countries where coverage of political news is robust and the safety of journalists is guaranteed, in that context I was happy to see that,” Mr. Vaz said.
He noted that Jamaica had a rating of 18, which just one point below the United States, and a point ahead of both Canada and Britain.
Mr. Vaz was speaking at seminar on media in democracy, hosted by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston on Monday July 18, 2011.
He noted that of the 19 countries in the Americas, Jamaica ranks fourth in terms of Press freedom.
“In Jamaica we have not just a robust but raucous and irreverent Press, and that's not a complaint by the way; just a statement attesting to our vibrant Press freedom,” he quipped.
He stressed that the Government was resolute in promoting “press freedom and unfettered investigative journalism,” as evidenced by the establishment of a committee to reform the country’s libel and slander laws, and the passage of whistle blower legislation.
He said that the Government wants to make it easier for journalists to ferret out information in the public interest, and wants to protect conscientious public servants who facilitate journalists in that effort.
“Journalists have an obligation to inform the people and to get out the truth,” Mr. Vaz said.
The Freedom House survey assesses the degree of print, broadcast, and internet freedom in every country in the world, analysing events and developments in each calendar year.
The country’s rating is determined by an examination of three broad categories: the legal environment in which the media operate; political influences on reporting and access to information; and economic pressures on content and the dissemination of news.
Each country receives a numerical rating from zero (the most free) to 100 (the least free), which serves as the basis for press freedom status designations of “free, “partly free”, or “not free”. Cuba, for example, is considered “not free”.
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization(NGO) based in Washington, D.C., which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights.
Twenty-one broadcast journalists and producers from radio and television stations in 10 Caribbean countries participated in the CBA/CBU training seminar, which formed part of a series of events, themed ‘CBA Live in Kingston: Media in Democracy’, aimed at increasing understanding of the crucial role the media plays in Caribbean democracies.
The event was supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Television Jamaica (TVJ), CVM Television, Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) and Landline, Internet, Mobile Entertainment (LIME).
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter