Caribbean

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Antigua & Barbuda On September 13, the prime minister signed the Declaration of Chapultepec – a notable change as a few years ago press freedom in these islands was tenuous at best and under siege at worst. The privately-owned Daily Observer newspaper and its radio station have experienced severe harassment from the government over the years, and it is hoped that the government, which controls or owns most of the media, will now provide a more hospitable climate for independent media to operate freely. Bahamas There are no issues likely to impact on press freedom at present. Barbados Barbados continues to enjoy complete press freedom. Guyana The president signed the Declaration of Chapultepec earlier this year. Two privately-owned newspapers, The Stabroek News and the Kaieteur News, and several private television stations operate freely and without censorship or interference. The government maintains a radio monopoly. However, new broadcasting legislation has been promised and a government spokesman has said that private radio licenses will then be issued. Grenada Grenada continues to enjoy freedom of the press despite the fact that it was first mooted by the prime minister, and recently taken up by that of St Vincent & the Grenadines, that the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) should seek to establish a code of ethics for the media in the region. However, meetings are being held among newspapers in the region with a view to establishing a code of practice and setting up a Press Complaints Council for the Eastern Caribbean, including Barbados. Grenada has about 10 independent radio stations and four television stations, three weekly newspapers and various other publications which express opinion freely. A former radio journalist who stated on a radio program that he had learned of a plot by the government to kill a former minister returned to the island recently after disappearing before he could face trial on a charge of criminal libel. He was arrested and held in custody for about one month after his first appearance in court. He has recently been granted bail and has mounted a campaign against conditions in the prison. The editor of the weekly newspaper Grenada Today is facing a charge for defamatory libel for one of the paper’s almost weekly articles critical of the government. The case was dismissed by the lower court on grounds of a constitutional right to freedom of expression, but on appeal by the state the original judgment was overturned. Application was then successfully sought to appeal to the Privy Council in London – the final court of appeal for Commonwealth countries. Trinidad & Tobago In this period there has been a change of government, from the United National Congress (UNC) to the People's National Movement (PNM). The new prime minister, Patrick Manning, has observed a hands-off policy with respect to the media, which is under no threat since the derailing of the “green paper” (proposed policy statement) threatened by the previous regime and vigorously opposed by news media in Trinidad & Tobago and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Jamaica The Gleaner Company Limited appealed to the Jamaica Appeal Court the two major libel awards handed down against the company in 1995 and 1996, of approximately $650,000 and $2.3 million, respectively. On July 31, the Court ordered the $2.3 million award to be reduced to approximately $750,000, but the company has appealed this judgment to the Privy Council. This case will be heard in May 2003. The $650,000 judgment has been sent back for hearing in the Jamaican Supreme Court. The Privy Council recently upheld the verdict in a libel case successfully appealed by the Gleaner in the Jamaican Appeal Court. The Privy Council decision in this case has been hailed as a landmark decision in the field of libel law, and now admits that a number of interpretations are often possible (in reading an article) and not just the most likely one that a reasonable reader would perceive. The Court did, however, warn that sloppy journalism could still lead to trouble and ambiguity should be avoided wherever possible. It should not be a screen behind which a journalist is “willing to wound and yet afraid to strike.” The government has passed a Corruption (Prevention) Act and an Access to Information Act. Both are in keeping with certain obligations which Jamaica has under its Organization of American States membership. However, the Access to Information legislation lacks important regulations to become fully operational.

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