Barbados TODAY’s Marlon Marlon is among Caribbean journalists in Brussels this week on a study tour of the European Union headquarters, learning more about the powerful organization’s systems and the work it has been doing over the years. Today, they visited the international press centre where the focus was on global press freedom.
The situation might not be as bad as some other regions, but press freedom in the Caribbean appears to be under threat.
Head of Human Rights and Safety at the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Ernest Sagaga reported today that there have been several reports of threats and intimidation against journalists in the region, some of which come from government officials.
While he did not have statistics handy and could not provide details, Sagaga said the situation was one that should be taken seriously by journalists and should not be tolerated.
He was speaking with Caribbean journalists at the international press centre at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
“There are every single day complaints about petitions [and] government officials trying to intimidate journalists, trying to influence how they report and that of course is contrary to our ethics,” said Sagaga.
“I cannot go into details so as to not misquote anyone, but I can tell you that those kinds of anxieties do exist in the Caribbean,” he said.
“That undermines journalism as you want it. Journalism is a public good and for that to be a reality we need to be able to report independently, without fear or favour. And that is how we can inform our public and they in turn can make informed decisions,” he added.
Sagaga called on politicians in the region to support journalists in their work instead of trying to intimidate them, adding that such support was critical to democracy and good governance.
“For all governments, there are criteria which are used to determine whether there are good governance in the country. Now, those criteria are democracy which is translated into regular and fair elections, rule of law that means independent judiciary, and a free press.
“So when they support journalism they are actually reaping the rewards, not journalists themselves but government as well, and therefore it is in their own interest to make sure that journalists are able to do their jobs properly and independently,” he cautioned.
His comments come amid mounting pressure on the press in the United States from the Donald Trump-led administration and reports of the resignation of three CNN reporters, following the publication of a Russia-related article that was retracted.
It also came after the IFJ released a report on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, which showed that there was an ongoing threat to independent journalism across the world.
The survey, which was conducted mainly in its second year, showed that journalism “remains in the grip of violence and that threats, both physical and in the form of online trolling where journalists are relentlessly persecuted by invisible and unidentifiable attackers in total impunity, are widespread”.
It cited criminal litigation, gagging media laws, such as criminal defamation and anti-terrorism legislation, as major challenges to press freedom.
The study said the most serious concern for journalists worldwide was physical violence. Last year alone the IFJ recorded 93 killings of journalists (including reporters and camera crew) around the world and so far this year, it said, 13 reporters have lost their lives to violence.
Of the total number of deaths last year, the Middle East and Arab World had the highest number of killings (30), followed by Asia Pacific with 28, Latin America 24, Africa eight and Europe three.
There were 112 killings of journalists in 2015. The work-related killings include targeted murders, bomb attacks and cross-fires incidents.
The study also highlighted the challenges journalists faced in relation to joining trade unions and other treat to their job security.