Barbados Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley wants to censor free speech on blogs, radio and television call-in shows and in the media, so it is no wonder that in Mottley’s latest briefing to the House of Assembly she did not mention that the Organisation of American States has expressed serious concerns about freedom of the press in CARICOM.
We expect that kind of censorship from Mia anytime she waddles up to a microphone, but why didn’t the Nation News inform Barbadians about the concerns voiced in Washington by the Organisation of American States?
The Barbados news media presented lots of stories on the Prime Minister’s trip to Washington, and we all saw the PM’s smiling face on televised photo-ops – but why nothing in Barbados print and broadcast news media about a major statement on CARICOM press freedoms by OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza?
Oh well, I guess we can all read the Miami Herald, Guyana’s Stabroek News or even the Fort Wayne Chronicle if we need to know about the attack on freedom of the press in CARICOM.
I notice that even the Joint Statement on the Conference on the Caribbean released by the U.S. Department of State did not mention freedom of the press. I guess that’s one thing that Owen Arthur and George W. Bush agreed upon to leave out of a joint statement.
Miami Herald – Monday, June 18, 2007
U.S., Caribbean Leaders Meet
WASHINGTON — A high-level conference designed to strengthen U.S.-Caribbean ties kicked off Monday with a meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and foreign ministers from the 15-member Caribbean Community, or CARICOM.
OAS officials also said that they are increasingly worried about complaints of attacks on freedom of the press around the region.
Ignacio Alvarez, the OAS’ special rapporteur on freedom of the press, said in the coming months he plans to visit several Caribbean nations to investigate the problems, which include the killings of reporters in Haiti and the recent expulsion of journalists from Antigua.
”It’s starting to get a little ugly,” Karla Heusner Vernon, the editor of the Independent Reformer newspaper in Belize, said at the session. “If governments are not happy with the way media are doing their jobs, they need to find another way.”
… read the entire article at The Miami Herald (link here)
Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General, Organization Of American States (website here)
Stabroek News – Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Archaic Laws In CARICOM Allow For Media Censorship – Insulza
Censorship and punishment of journalists and the media still exist in Guyana and other Caricom countries because the majority had not brought their criminal legislation in line with international standards, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Jose Miguel Insulza says.
Meanwhile, the office of the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of the Press has announced that it would be conducting a survey on the freedom of expression in the Caribbean and based on its findings will make recommendations to governments on how they could work with the media to enhance democracy and development.
At the opening of a two-day seminar for Caribbean journalists at the OAS Head Office in Washington DC on Monday, Insulza said the Inter-American Commission on human rights has indicated that the criminal offence of desacato (lack of respect/disrespect for), which grants special protection to the honour and reputation of public officials in some OAS/Caricom member states, was incompatible with the right to freedom of expression.
“That is because, in a democratic society public officials should not receive such special protection but rather be exposed to a higher degree of scrutiny so as to foster public debate and democratic oversight of their conduct,” he said. “A more complex issue is how to handle forms of indirect pressure that are within the purview of the legitimate exercise of public responsibilities.
“Such as [when] under relatively equal conditions, all or most official news coverage is made available to media that support the government, or when legal government powers are used to silence the opposition media.
“What is at issue, is neither the letter of the law nor the right of the state to enforce it but rather the fact that, when this is done, a clear signal is being sent to the rest of the media causing self-censorship and fear.”
He said too, that the state was not the only source of restriction on freedom of expression but also the concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few. “It is almost universally accepted today that concentration and monopolies in media ownership and control, regardless of whether [in] the hands of the state, individuals, or businesses, impair pluralism, which is a basic component of freedom of expression.”
Governments, he noted, also use the lack of access to public information as a mean of stifling freedom of expression. “No society can claim to be pluralist, tolerant, and rooted in justice and mutual respect if it fails to guarantee its citizens the right to elicit information regarding the work of public institutions, so that they can contribute to their improvement and thereby enhance the potential for democratic governance.”
During the session on ‘Good Governance and Access to Information’, OAS Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression Ignacio Alvarez noted the number of challenges facing the media in relation to the freedom of expression in the Caribbean, which was rated as one of the regions in the world where the press more or less operated freely.
He cited emerging challenges, including the killing of 19 media workers in the Caribbean. (This figure did not include the five Kaieteur News pressmen since the circumstances of their killing were still unclear.)
He also pointed to the issue of the withdrawal of advertisements by the Guyana Government from Stabroek News, which was raised by two speakers and participants from the floor, and was being looked at by his office. He said based on the response from Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the OAS would take whatever action was in its scope.
Referring to the expulsion of two Caribbean journalists from Antigua and Barbuda, he said that in the same manner in which governments could use the awarding/withholding of advertisements to certain media houses, they could also use the granting/denial of work permits to their benefit.
Similarly, he said, governments also use the granting/ not granting of radio licences as a means of controlling the media.
Calling on the media to urge their governments to honour their obligations by signing onto the instruments that promote democracy in the region, Alvarez noted that Guyana was among several Caricom countries, which had not signed on to the Inter-American Systems of Human Rights and the Inter-Ameri-can Commission on Human Rights but it was a signatory to the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
… read the original article at Stabroek News (link here)