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Jamaica Tops Western Hemisphere for Press Freedom: Report

Above: Kingston (CJ Photo)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Jamaica has the highest ranking for press freedom in the Western Hemisphere, according to the 2013 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The country was ranked 13th overall in the world, ousting Canada as the region’s leader for press freedom. RSF said that came due to “obstruction of journalists” during the so-called “Maple Spring” student movement and “continuing threats to the confidentiality of journalists; sources and internet users’ personal data.”

Jamaica was just ahead of Switzerland on the list, and just below Austria.

The report reflects a series of criteria, from legislation to violence against journalists and the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom.

It looks at six categories: pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure.

The report called out Trinidad and Tobago (ranked 44th), saying it had “still not stopped its illegal monitoring of journalists’ phone calls and attempts to identify their sources, although it promised to stop in 2010.”

In Suriname (down nine places to 31st), the report said “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.”

The seven-member Organization of Eastern Caribbean states was ranked as one bloc, falling eight places to 34th because of “often direct pressure from the political authorities on news media and the failure to move ahead with the decriminalization of defamation.”

Haiti was ranked fourth in the Caribbean for press freedom; the report said the situation “is still largely unchanged although some journalists have accused President Michel Martelly of hostility towards them.”

On Guyana, the report said the country’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 and journalists and legal proceedings that threaten freedom of information.”

Cuba was ranked 171st; RSF cited it as “the hemisphere’s only country to tolerate no independent media.”

Barbados was not included in the report.

See the full report here.

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