BARBADOS Until recently, Barbados proudly boasted of a healthy level of tolerance among newspapers, the governments, businesses and the people, but there was always a state of tension.. Last year that tension increased when there was a clash between the Prime Minister's Political consultant and the editor of the Sunday Sun, one the editions published by the Nation Publishing Company and the largest circulated newspaper in Barbados. The advisor threatened that if the editor did not display the story about a public opinion poll, as he determined appropriate, he would “embarrass” and “destroy” her (the editor’s) reputation in Barbados. The police were called in by the newspaper, and the threat reported. The Sunday Sun published the story on page 3 of the publication. Since then, the Government has pulled its party advertising and its weekly column because they perceive the Nation as anti-Government. It shows preference for the other newspaper, The Advocate, which blatantly throws its support behind the government. The relationship between the police and the Press which was strained over the past three years because of incidents where the police sought to bar journalists/photographers from taking pictures, is much improved. The media heads held meetings with the hierarchy of the Police Force and a memorandum of agreement was reached. This event prompted journalists to regroup and relaunch the Barbados Association of Journalists (BAJ). The newspapers have managed to do their work feeling secure that despite the occasional verbal attacks and criticism for “biased” or bad reporting, they live without too much daily interference. GUYANA The use of state advertising to punish and reward media has continued to be a feature of the Government’s treatment of the media. President Bharrat Jagdeo has also continued to launch attacks against media houses and reporters thereby creating conditions which could lead to self-censorship and the curbing of media freedoms. Despite repeated promises during 2009, the government has thus far failed to present promised Access to Information legislation and legislation for a National Broadcast Authority. Since 2007, the use of state advertising as a weapon against the media has stood out. After arbitrarily withdrawing advertising from Stabroek News for 17 months, the Government resumed the placement of advertisements with the newspaper in April, 2008. No explanation was provided for the resumption. Trends last year and so far this year show that the government has used advertising to both punish and reward media. Moreover, at the end of last year the Guyana Times received more advertisements than the Kaieteur News which had been the government’s previously declared highest circulating newspaper. This development came at a time when there had been tension between the government and the Kaieteur News over disputed reports in the newspaper. After a news report was carried on October 4, 2009 about the quantum of ads being received by the Guyana Times their allocation was reduced in subsequent months but it continues to be a generous one. For February, 2010, the Guyana Times allotment was just below that of the Kaieteur News. This situation reinforces the critical need for the apportioning of state advertising to be placed on a professional footing, perhaps assigning this function to an advertising agency which can allocate ads on the basis of audited circulation and content. A Capitol News television reporter Gordon Moseley was banned by President Jagdeo from attending press conferences at the Office of the President or State House. President Jagdeo was upset at the tone of a letter written by Mr Moseley to the media defending his reportage on a summit at which the President was present. The President called on Mr Moseley to apologise over the letter which he said he would not do as he was responding to the President’s criticism of his reportage. The Government maintains a radio monopoly that it inherited from the previous government in 1992. Only one radio station exists at the moment even though this government had promised 17 years ago to begin the liberalization process. New broadcasting legislation had been promised a long time ago to regulate the issuing and renewal of licences and to monitor broadcast standards but nothing has been done. In the first week of October, 2009, a government spokesman said that a bill for a new broadcast authority would be tabled in Parliament in the upcoming session. It also comes in the backdrop of a ruling by the Chief Justice that the agency entrusted with dealing with applications for radio licences must process these in reasonable time. Thus far the bill has not been tabled. However, the sale of a private television station, VCT Channel 28 to the Ramroop Group – the owners of the Guyana Times – has raised concerns about transparency and fairness in any granting of new radio licences. VCT had had a longstanding application for a radio licence and there are concerns that this licence will be awarded to the Ramroop Group ahead of other applications which pre-dated VCT’s and that other feasible ones will be ignored. Dozens of applications for radio licences had been lodged with the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) since 1992 but these were put on hold because of the lack of a political agreement on the way forward. Since two court rulings criticizing the government for not acting speedily on the applications for licences, the NFMU has been writing to all of the applicants enquiring whether they are still interested acquiring licences. There is a concern that this process is intended primarily to enable the granting of a radio licence to VCT. Other applicants for licences are carefully monitoring how the NFMU treats with their applications. There is no Freedom of Information Act. Access to government ministers is relatively easy although obtaining official information and data from ministries and government departments is very difficult. A Freedom of Information bill drafted by an opposition member of Parliament has been before two parliaments without the government agreeing to support it. In April, 2009, President Jagdeo told a press conference in Trinidad and Tobago that he would table FOI legislation within two months. This deadline passed without a bill being presented. In the first week of October, 2009, a government spokesman said that a FOI bill would be tabled at the next session of Parliament. Up to the day of this report there had been no definitive word on when the bill would be presented to Parliament. There is a widely held view in the media that the libel law is antiquated and prevents robust reporting on public officials. What should clearly be permissible as fair comment on public officials has frequently led to lawsuits aiming at stifling further reportage. A decision was taken in September 2009 to form the Guyana Proprietors Association (GMPA). This was duly done and an executive was elected on January 27, 2010. It is the intention of the GMPA to work closely with the practitioner’s association and the University of Guyana’s School of Communication. JAMAICA The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) is concerned about the lack of urgency that is displayed by the Jamaican legislature in debating a report recommending the reform of Jamaica’s archaic libel and defamation laws. The report has been languishing in Parliament for more than one year, and two years after its preparation by a committee appointed by the Prime Minister. Journalists and media are agitating for the removal of libel as a criminal offence, the lowering of the bar to make malice the only defence by public officials, and the determination of damages by a judge rather than a jury. The practice is for juries to charge excessive amounts for damages, which can have a deleterious effect on the sustainability of media organisations. Another factor negatively impacting press freedom is the need for the abolition of the Official Secrets Act, which contradicts the release of information from the civil service under the Access to Information Act. TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Press freedom remains an entrenched constitutional right and, given prudent apprehensions and vigilant monitoring, a living reality. Government ill-feeling toward the media, given expression late last year in the recommendations to ban a reporter from the Parliament chamber only heightened in 2010. The ban was proposed by ruling party members comprising the majority of the Parliament’s Privileges Committee, as a sanction against a daily newspaper reporter. The reporter’s offence had been to publish a story based on a report before the committee, but which the body had not yet discussed. After the story appeared, and official displeasure had been signaled, the committee convened a hearing to decide on a response to the offence. In representations to the committee, the reporter and the editor-in –chief of his paper, Newsday, acknowledged that the story entailed violation of a Parliamentary standing order, and they apologized for the premature publication. By then, other evidence had pointed to an official inclination to use the Parliament’s Privileges Committee not only to keep honourable members inline but also to wield a rod of correction against the media. Weeks before, the same committee had been moved to consider a report from parliamentarians against CCN TV6, a reporter and a news anchor on the station, alleging a breech of privilege by inaccurate reporting from the Parliament. An increasingly paranoid attitude of hostility toward the media has characterized public statements by government leaders. From these statements, ruling politicians did not noticeably exclude the state-owned media, comprising radio and television stations. Within the broadcast media, the government continues to count on the support of one prominent radio network owned and operated by a high-level ruling party member.