Bridgetown, Barbados. April 30, 2021. The Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) joins the rest of the world in marking Monday, May 3, 2021 as World Press Freedom Day. The recognition is done under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO. We do so under the theme of “Information as a Public Good”.
UNESCO says that this year’s theme “…serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind.”
It adds that “the theme is of urgent relevance to all countries across the world. It recognizes the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development”.
We in the Caribbean can readily identify with this theme. Over the past year we have seen many instances of disinformation, “management of information” and attempts to curtail the movement of media workers to verify and ferret out information for themselves being introduced. Much of it may have been to seek to manage a pandemic, but “the CBU is more concerned when consequences of actions, even if well-intentioned, are consequences that could infringe on media rights and freedoms”.
“As lockdowns, curfews and public health measures are taken to manage a pandemic, we call upon the authorities to always ensure that media workers can freely move about, while observing public health precautions to ensure that the rights of citizens are not negatively impacted, especially during the pandemic”, a statement from the CBU said.
The statement also underlined the fact that it is at times like a pandemic, a tropical cyclone or volcanic activities that media workers, in credible media entities, trained and adhering to the tenets of journalism are the ones to be relied upon for credible information. “It is at times like these and in circumstances like these that Information is a Public Good, owed to the people to use in making the best decisions, needed by authorities to have an informed citizenry and relied upon for constructive debate of the issues that must be settled in making the best decisions”, the statement said.
The CBU notes that the latest Global Index for Press Freedom put out by the independent non-profit organisation, “Reporters Without Borders” has highlighted some improvements, but also some concerns for the region. The index shows that Trinidad and Tobago registered a significant improvement in its press freedom ranking in 2021, jumping five places from 36 up to 31 in the ranking of 180 countries globally. It continues to rank Jamaica as number one for press freedom in the region even though it slipped from six last year to seven this year. Suriname moved up one place from 20 to 19, the countries of the Eastern Caribbean moved down one place from 44 to 45, Guyana dropped two places from 49 to 51, while Belize and Cuba remained unchanged at 53 and 171 respectively.
These rankings tell us that media must be vigilant about media freedoms and at the national levels, examinations must be done as to how to ensure that on World Press Freedom Day and beyond media rights and freedoms are strengthened.
We commend all our members who continue to pursue credible information for and on behalf of our people and urge you to remain responsible in doing so.