Caribbean: On Press Freedom

Yesterday – May 3 – was World Press Freedom Day – declared by the United Nations General Assembly in order to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press. Many Caribbean bloggers noted the significance of the occasion in their posts…

Signifyin’ Guyana tried to rally a call to action:

For at least one day (today) many hope the eyes of the world will focus on places where persons in the media–bloggers included–have been jailed, and even killed for writing about injustices.

She went on to call the names of some offending countries and the “journalists in peril”, adding:

To a lesser degree of injury, but certainly just as important in the matter of restrictions on press freedoms, is what's taking place in Guyana. What I see in Guyana is a less evident condition of press freedom restriction.

Now one can easily point to President Jagdeo as a major offender. His rantings against the press who dare to criticize the government of Guyana are well documented…but even more freedom-restricting than Jagdeo's actions, are the actions of some top media Personnel in Guyana.

The post also laid part of the blame squarely at the feet of irresponsible journalists:

Here's what I propose we do in true support of those media persons around the world (and in Guyana as well) whose freedoms are being stifled by abusive powers: Don't read or buy Kaieteur News and The Guyana Times–and while we're at it throw in the Guyana Chronicle as well–for at least one week. And let's go here instead to add [our] voices to the calls for action.

Further north along the archipelago, Cuban bloggers Uncommon Sense and Along the Malecon noted the irony of the occasion in light of last week's arrest of two dissidents in eastern Cuba:

Cuban authorities on Wednesday detained Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina and his brother Néstor, leaders of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy in Baracoa…dedicated to helping free Cuban prisoners.

Even though Uncommon Sense later posted an update confirming “that the Rodríguez brothers were released from detention this weekend”, Along the Malecon continued:

Press freedom advocates say you don't have to have formal studies to be a practicing journalist. What's certain is that a disproportionately high number of journalists are in jail in Cuba. There were 125 journalists in jail around the world in 2008, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ. Roughly 20 percent were Cubans. The CPJ also says Cuba is one of the 10 worst countries to be a blogger, according to this April 30 report.

Antilles, the weblog of the Caribbean Review of Books, supported the move by the international writers’ association PEN to launch its Freedom to Write in the Americas campaign, which “aims to highlight the persecution of writers and journalists and the issue of impunity in the region, provide direct support to colleagues in trouble, and raise awareness of trends of repression and censorship threatening writers’ rights”:

In the Caribbean, like everywhere else, we need our writers–not just journalists, but novelists, poets, playwrights, historians, critics–to ask unpopular questions, reveal uncomfortable facts, and compel us to consider those crucial matters that our political leaders would rather we ignored.

Finally, in Trinidad and Tobago, Media Watch published a statement by the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, while The Secret Blog of Patrick “Patos” Manning, which purports to be from the mind of the country's media-embattled Prime Minister, posts a tongue-in-cheek excerpt from his most recent Twitter feed:

T&T journalists, as you observe World Press Freedom Day on May 3, hope you remember how good allyuh have it down here.

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