BARBADOS In Barbados, press freedom continues to be very much alive and healthy. There have been no threats to freedom of expression as a matter of policy from either of the two dominant political parties. Although one matter that may be categorized as a freedom of the press issue is the government's monopolization of local television services. The situation in which the government owns and operates the sole television station starkly contrasts with progressive developments in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica where government-owned stations have been privatized and are now a thing of the past. GUYANA The Guyana government severely damaged its press freedom credentials since November 2006 by arbitrarily withdrawing state advertisements from the privately-owned Stabroek News in a bid to punish it for its editorial independence. Up to this point, the government’s record on press freedom had been good. Two privately-owned newspapers, the Stabroek News and the Kaieteur News and several private television stations operate freely. However, it was the withdrawal of the advertisements from Stabroek News that marred this record. In November 2006, the government of Guyana withdrew all ministry advertisements from the Stabroek News without providing any credible explanation, in a transparent attempt to punish the newspaper for its editorial stance. This is a clear violation of the Inter-American Declaration of Chapultepec on Press Freedom to which the Guyana government is a signatory. The withdrawal of advertising came after several bitter public attacks on the newspaper by Guyana’s President Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo. In the wake of the withdrawal of the ministry advertisements, a number of government agencies and state corporations followed suit based on directives from the government. Up to September 25, 2007 the situation remains unchanged and the withdrawal of the advertisements has had a significant impact on the newspaper. Stabroek News has argued that the withdrawal of ads has been in political reprisal for critical editorials, and in the view of Stabroek News, the action by the government is not based on a business decision as the government eventually claimed after failing to provide an explanation for two months following the newspaper’s going public with the news of the cut-off. The government has rejected a proposal by Stabroek News to have state advertising apportioned on the basis of the paid, audited circulation of the major newspapers. A subsequent mediation effort by a team of regional media officials failed and their proposal to devise a fair mechanism for the allocation of state advertising has been ignored by Guyana’s President, Mr. Jagdeo. Following the failure of the mediation efforts, a number of Caribbean media houses issued a joint statement condemning the failure of the government to resolve the issue and calling on it to reconsider the withdrawal of the advertisements. The Commonwealth Press Union has written to the Commonwealth Secretary General, Mr. Don McKinnon asking him to use his good offices to enable a resolution to the matter. A complaint was also lodged by Stabroek News with the Human Rights Rapporteur of the Organization of American States, Ignacio J Alvarez. Mr. Alvarez wrote the Guyana government on June 13, 2007, asking for an explanation of its decision to withdraw the advertisements. After not receiving a response from the Guyana government, Mr. Alvarez issued a statement on July 25, 2007 calling on the Guyana government to review its withdrawal of advertisements from the Stabroek News and to ensure transparency in the allocation of official advertising. Despite a promise that it would officially respond to Mr. Alvarez’s request, the Guyana government has not supplied the requested information as of September 25, 2007. The Inter American Press Association has made the point that governments must not use taxpayers’ funds to reward friends and punish critics in the allocation of advertisements. Ideally, the allocation of such ads should be handled by a professional advertising agency, which applies traditional business criteria, rather than by a government department headed by a political appointee. On another matter, the government of Guyana maintains a radio monopoly that it inherited from the previous government in 1992. New broadcasting legislation had been promised a long time ago to regulate the issuing and renewal of licences and to monitor broadcast standards. A government spokesman hassaid that private radio licences would then be issued, but nothing has been done. This would complete the liberalisation of the media. An Advisory Committee on Broadcasting was established to advise the minister on the issuance, suspension, and/or termination of television broadcasting station licences (including termination of unlicensed broadcasts) but to date there is no evidence that it is working. There is no Freedom of Information Act. There is some access to government ministers and other government departments but this could be better. An opposition member of parliament has tabled a Freedom of Information bill for consideration. The bill has so far not come up for debate and from all appearances is unlikely to win passage. JAMAICA The state of journalism is generally good although there are serious concerns about existing libel laws. The new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government, which was elected on September 3, 2007, has indicated its desire to review and reform the country’s archaic libel laws and slander laws. The new Prime Minister Bruce Golding has established a committee to begin this work and has invited the participation of media interests, including the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ). Although,government has enacted the Access to Information Act, the Official Secrets Act, which prevents officials from speaking freely, remains on the statue books. While the broadcast media is affected by state regulations, considerable allowance has been made over the last twenty years for the establishment of numerous privately-owned, competing commercial broadcast media enterprises. There is equal vibrance in the print media segment with three stalwart national newspapers and a plethora of smaller national and community publications as well as online content providers. Former editor of The Gleaner, Dudley Stokes, has presented a petition to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights on the basis that the government is in breach of Article 13 of the American Convention of Human Rights, which generally protects freedom of expression and the dissemination of idea. The gravamen of the petition is that the award made in the Abrahams' case, though reduced by the Court of Appeal from $80.7 million Jamaican dollars (US$ 1,173,818) to 35 million Jamaican dollars (US$ 509,090), is excessive. No decision has been reached as the former editor of The Gleaner, Dr. Dudley Stokes, still awaits a decision from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) in relation to the Anthony Abrahams matter. It has been indicated that a decision should be reached by February 2008.