Guyana below fellow Caricom countries on 2014 press freedom index

The 2014 World Press Freedom Index has Guyana in almost the same position as last year and significantly below its fellow Caricom countries.

Put together by Reporters without Borders, the 2014 listing released today ranks Guyana at 67 out of 180. Last year Guyana was ranked at 69 out of 179.

“The World Press Freedom Index is a reference tool that is based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

“It makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions.”

Countries are ranked in order of adherence to these principles with number one being the best exponent and number 180 being the worst.

Compared to Guyana’s 67, Jamaica was the best ranked Caricom country of those included in the survey. It came in at 17, followed by Belize (first time in the survey) at 29, Suriname at 31, Antigua and Barbuda at 36, Trinidad and Tobago at 43 and Haiti at 47.

The report said “The new entry, Belize, has been assigned an enviable position (29th). Cases of violence against journalists are rare in Belize but there were some problems: defamation suits involving demands for large amounts in damages, national security restrictions on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and sometimes unfair management of broadcast frequencies.”

Observers say these would be some of the same areas that Guyana would have been assessed by leading to its relatively low ranking compared to other Caricom countries. The Access to Information Act has not been activated here and there is a huge controversy over the allocation of broadcast frequencies. In addition, the government here has been accused of unwarranted verbal attacks on media practitioners. It has also been accused of using state advertisements to punish its perceived critics.

The top five ranked countries in the Reporters’ index are Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Andorra. The bottom five are Somalia, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.

Canada was ranked at 18, the United Kingdom came in at 33 and the US at 46.

Of the Americas, the report said that more than 20 years have passed since the military dictatorships and civil wars ended in Latin America and the Caribbean, except Colombia. Cuba, it said, is also distinguished by a regime inherited from the Cold War that tolerates no independent watchdogs although an emerging civil society is challenging this.

It said that many journalists and human rights defenders continue to be exposed to a high level violence that comes from different quarters including organized crime, paramilitary groups and sometimes the state.

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