The International Press Institute (IPI) yesterday called for the abolition of 'insult laws' and criminal-defamation legislation in the Caribbean.
In a declaration adopted during its 61st World Congress, IPI noted that media outlets across the wider Caribbean may be subjected to a panoply of repressive measures, from jailing and persecution to the widespread scourge of 'insult laws' and criminal defamation, "which are sometimes used by the powerful to prevent critical appraisal of their actions and to deprive the public of information about misdeeds".
It said that the Caribbean urgently needs "a strong, free and independent media" to act as a watchdog over public institutions, and that media freedom remains "a key to the establishment of good governance and durable economic, political, social and cultural development, prosperity and peace in the Caribbean".
The IPI said there was also need to reaffirm a commitment to media freedom as a basic human right, as well as an indispensable part of democracy in every country, including those in the Caribbean.
It noted that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom of expression as a fundamental right, and emphasises that freedom of opinion and expression is essential to the realisation of other rights set forth in international human-rights instruments.
The declaration notes that the "struggle to attain full media freedom continues in the Caribbean, and that journalists in some countries face the threat of murder, imprisonment, torture, censorship, publication bans and threats to their employment".