Guyana In the lead up to national elections, gunmen attacked the privately owned Kaieteur newspaper. Five persons were killed. In a letter to Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called for an immediate investigation to identify those responsible and to bring them swiftly to justice. The organization also mourned and condemned the murder of a reporter (Ronald Waddell) in January. Lennox Grant and Wyvolyn Gager of the two-person Independent Refereeing Panel scrutinizing the performance of the press in the run-up to the August 28 elections said the aim of the attackers was to undermine the free press in Guyana. Jamaica While the press continues to enjoy relative freedom, it still operates in an environment where criminal libel is still on the books. There is consensus among media practitioners that existing libel and defamation laws are hindering freedom of expression. Recent multi-million dollar awards against two media houses have further undermined freedom of the press in this country. Faced with the possibilities of big libel suits, the media in recent times have been less vigilant and therefore losing on whatever progress that had been achieved towards a more aggressive and proactive press. Speaking at a media event in Kingston late last month, Harold Hoyte, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Nation Publishing Company in Barbados, said hefty libel awards handed down in Jamaica would close many media houses in other parts of the Caribbean. The Libel and defamation laws need urgent revision as they were enacted in the early nineteenth century and no longer a reflection of modern cultural, economic, political, philosophical or social realities. In the current climate, journalists and media houses are less inclined to go after stories that will expose corruption, one of the main drivers of the current high crime rate in the country where over 500 murders have been committed annually since 1990. 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 ideas. The gravamen of the petition is that the award made in the Abrahams’ case, though reduced by the Court of Appeal from J$80.7 million Jamaican dollars to J$35 million Jamaican dollars, is excessive. The country is on the threshold of overhauling the Bill of Rights of the Constitution and substituting it with a comprehensive Charter of Rights which would better serve to protect Human Rights and freedoms in Jamaica. The Media Association of Jamaica of which the Gleaner Company is a member has consolidated a lobby to press for separate protection for freedom of the press and media in the Charter. The Press Association by letter dated July 24, 2006 made a request to the Attorney General’s Department. Barbados Freedom of the press continues to exist in Barbados. During this period there have been no threats to freedom of the press from any quarter, governmental or otherwise. Trinidad Nothing has changed with the exception that the government has done a new constitution draft for public discussion which the press is studying.