Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida


There has been no further discussion on the proposed code containing a clause, seeking to preclude politically active teachers, principals and school boards from criticising the programmes and policies of the Ministry of Education in any media. The minister has since been ousted on corruption allegations. Jamaica's Media and Press Association came out strongly against this element of the code.

There have been some whispers that the proposed Data Protection Act will return to parliament imminently for debate. Hopefully the requested exclusions for media/journalism have been strengthened as per the lobby of the media and press associations.

There has been no further development on the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica's urging the Government to increase its oversight responsibility beyond free-to-air electronic media to policing social media platforms.

The media and press associations have called for the abolition of a provision in the Criminal Justice and Administration Act which prohibits still photography or sketches of defendants on courthouse premises. Penalties for breaching this provision include fines and imprisonment. This troubling element of the law returned to the spotlight as parliament sought to modernize fines associated with breaches of the act. During this general process, the fine for this infraction was raised to the near equivalent of 10,000 US dollars. It is argued that the section has no place in the modern world where many other jurisdictions have long abolished and where technological advances have produced many other methods of image capture which are used on courthouse premises. The magnitude of the fine and threat of criminal proceedings not only pose a threat to journalist but to the ordinary citizen.


The fight continues for Freedom of Information and greater access to information that allows media practitioners to effectively carry out their jobs educating and informing the public on matters of national importance. Unfortunately, at this time more still needs to be done to impress upon the officials, in both the public and private sector, the importance of the critical role the media plays in society.

The media continues to probe the promises made by the Barbados Labour Party Government, which won by a landslide last elections, and the critical issues that impact on every Barbadian as the media still regards its role as an "unofficial opposition" to be critical.

The growth of social media continues, forcing media houses to think differently when presenting and packaging the news and content and the challenge remains monetizing the content.

Trinidad and Tobago

Media organisations wrestled with press freedom issues including social media harassment of employees as well as two incidents involving the state which in their view held the potential to effect possible curtailment of the principle of free speech, and freedom of the press.

At a regular meeting in mid-September, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, discussed an issue which appears to be taking on greater significance in the country, the on-line attacks on media practitioners, for their work as journalists.

Male and female journalists reported on the ways in which persons who disagree with what they write and, or say, are using social media platforms to send messages of hate, as well as veiled threats to their personal safety.

There was a search by the police of the premises of a radio and television station being operated by one of the country's major religious organisation. This came about as a result of statements made by the Chief Executive of that organisation, in remarks addressing the work attitudes of persons, resident in the smaller of our twin-island democracy. An issue arose over the basis for the search, and after months, the police authorities who ordered the action had not produced a copy of the warrant which would have legitimised the action.

The leader of one of the country's prominent public sector trade unions was arrested and charge by police, for a statement he made while addressing workers in one of the union's branches. Taken together, these matters raised the spectre of an attempt at curbing free speech rights, the authorities citing possible violations against a centuries-old "sedition" Act.

In still another, separate and concerning set of actions, the government announced intentions to alter the arrangements regarding public access to information under the Freedom of Information Act. A bill seeking to amend this act, inserts the Attorney General's office as an agency to determine the merits of a claim for such information. In this case, the country's Law Association joined with other free speech advocates, in denouncing the move.