February 5, 2013

Jamaica tops press freedom in Western Hemisphere

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has fallen eight places to 34 and Jamaica has replaced Canada as the country with the highest level of press freedom in the Western Hemisphere.{{more}}

Paris-based media watchdog body Report Without Borders (RSF) said in a report released Wednesday, that the fall in the OECS rank was because of “often direct pressure from the political authorities on news media and the failure to move ahead with the decriminalization of defamation”.

Canada fell 10 positions to 20th internationally, while Jamaica is 13th in the global rankings.

Canada’s slide was due to “obstruction of journalists during the so-called ‘Maple Spring’ student movement and to continuing threats to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and Internet users’ personal data, in particular, from the C-30 bill on cyber-crime,” RSF said.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean and the Caribbean Community, RSF said “political tension and judicial harassment account for the ranking of other countries”.

Trinidad and Tobago (44th) still has not stopped its “illegal monitoring of journalists’ phone calls and attempts to identify their sources, although it promised to stop in 2010,” RSF said.

In Suriname (which fell nine places to 31st), “the often stormy relations between President Desi Bouterse and many journalists are unlikely to improve after the passage of an amnesty law for the murders of around 15 government opponents, including five journalists, three decades ago when Bouterse was Suriname’s dictator”.

Bouterse was elected to office in 2010.

Similar pressure was reported in Guyana (69th). RSF said Guyana’s ranking “continues to suffer from the state’s monopoly of radio broadcasting”.

The Dominican Republic rose 15 places to 80th “because of a decline in violence against journalists and legal proceedings that threaten freedom of information.

“But it is still far behind its neighbour Haiti (49th), where the situation is still largely unchanged although some journalists have accused President Michel Martelly of hostility towards them.”

The United States rose 15 places to 32nd, recovering a ranking, the RSF said, “more appropriate to the ‘country of the First Amendment’”.

The United States’ previous year’s fall was due to the fact that the crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement did not spare reporters in the field, RSF said.

“Just as the emergence of major protest movements (and ensuing crackdowns) had a big impact on the rankings of certain countries in 2011, so a decline in the protests has logically also had an impact a year later,” RSF said. (