Calls for laws to protect press freedom

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President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, Wesley Gibbings, says there is a high level of self censorship among Caribbean media houses and professionals. He shared his opinion with  OBSERVER media yesterday on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day
The Trinidad and Tobago based journalist pointed out that several factors affect press freedom in the Caribbean. Claiming that these factors include underlying pressures and conditions that influence the behaviour of media houses and professionals, Gibbings said, “in the Caribbean, we are very much in survival mode, both with respect to our economy and the conditions of our societies ….”
The ACM president also said, media practitioners, as citizens, could also be influenced into being conservative in terms of the materials they produce based on the nation in which they operate. He said media houses also engage in some level of self-censorship, at times, in order to secure business interests.
Notwithstanding this, Gibbings said, some practitioners within the region have been able to overcome these challenges in a competent manner. He added: “I don’t agree with people who suggest that journalists leave their homes in the morning in order to go out to make political parties look good, or governments, or even the people who finance their operations. I think the vast majority of journalists leave their homes in the morning with doing a good job on their mind.”
Meanwhile, St Lucian based Independent Journalist, Janeka Simon has suggested that Caribbean journalists are still lagging behind in terms of the introduction of laws to protect freedom of the press. She also told OBSERVER media on World Press Freedom Day that while journalists must accept a level of responsibility for what is circulated in the media, they should be able to work without fear.
“We need to see an acknowledgement by public figures that they cannot have the same development plan that protects journalist as private citizens do by the nature of their public work. I think the press, while being held responsible for what they are doing should not be labouring under the threat of license revocation if they publish stories that may not be favourable to the authority of the day.”
Simon also said members of the public should recognize that the information which is printed or broadcasted is done so that they are able to make highly-informed decisions.
            World Press Freedom Day is observed annually on May 3, to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. (Theresa Gordon)

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