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  • Jamaica is considered to be one of the more tolerant countries in the world, in relation to freedom of the press.
  • This observation has been made by Mogens Schmidt, Director for the Division of Freedom of Expression at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in France.
  • He was addressing journalists yesterday (April 30), at a press briefing on the upcoming International Media Conference, at the UNESCO office in Kingston.

Jamaica is considered to be one of the more tolerant countries in the world, in relation to freedom of the press.
This observation has been made by Mogens Schmidt, Director for the Division of Freedom of Expression at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in France.
“Whenever we assess the press freedom situation globally in various countries, Jamaica is always the country where there is press freedom. Jamaica is definitely on the very good side of this development,” Mr. Schmidt said.
He was addressing journalists yesterday (April 30), at a press briefing on the upcoming International Media Conference, at the UNESCO office in Kingston.
The two-day conference will begin on May 2 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, and is entitled ‘Freedom of Expression: Early New Millennium Challenges’.
Mr. Schmidt said the conference would focus on three themes, the main one being the matter of impunity. The UNESCO official lamented the fact that “seventy to eighty per cent of all crimes against journalists are never brought before the Courts”.
He pointed out that the highest number of journalists killed every year was in Columbia, and that North Korea was foremost in the lack of press freedom. “There are few countries where there is no press freedom at all. However, North Korea would be the most obvious example,” he added.
UNESCO’s Programme Specialist for the Caribbean, Joslyn Josiah, noted that with respect to the Caribbean, Cuba was the most restrictive country in regard to press freedom, followed by Haiti. She said that incidences of the persecution of journalists have occurred in Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. However, she observed that in relation to the rest of the world, the Caribbean was “not as flagrant”.
“There has been a tradition of democracy and freedom of expression in the Caribbean. Though there may be persecution of journalists, there are few heinous crimes and not on the scale as in other parts of the world,” she said.
Mr. Schmidt pointed out that in focussing on the problem of impunity, the conference would seek to encourage governments to place more effort on tackling the violations.
“We hope the conference will call to the attention of the global community, especially the Caribbean community, the problem of press freedom and to build support for journalists working under risky conditions,” he said.
He explained that the conference was part of a whole strategy, with many concrete development actions and a cluster of activities, to create better conditions for freedom of expression.
Other areas of focus during the conference would be the safety of journalists, and freedom of expression.
The conference is part of the observance of the 10th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day on May 3. It is being held in the Caribbean for the first time, and approximately 150 delegates will be participating.
A highlight of the conference will be the awarding of the World Press Freedom Prize of US$25,000 to Israeli journalist, Amira Haas on May 2 at King’s House.
Miss Haas was selected from among her peers by an international jury headed by the Chairman and Managing Director of the Gleaner Company, Oliver Clarke.

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