The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) said yesterday it was heartened by the 2013 Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders, which shows Jamaica leading the Western Hemisphere in press freedom.
Ranked 13th in the world, Jamaica has replaced Canada as the country with the greatest level of press freedom in the hemisphere, an achievement the PAJ said every Jamaican should guard jealously.
In welcoming the latest ranking, PAJ President Jenni Campbell applauded state actors, including the political leadership and members of the security forces, who, by and large, have allowed journalists to do their work without restrictions.
reform archaic libel law
However, Campbell noted that Jamaica's ranking could be even higher if the planned reform of the archaic libel and defamation law is done.
"The libel and defamation laws remain the greatest restrictions for Jamaican journalists who want to get on with the job of informing the nation fearlessly and unbiased," said Campbell.
"The freedom of the local media is a significant achievement for the country and I am challenging the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration to stick to its word of tabling the amended legislation in Parliament before the end of this legislative year."
In a release yesterday, Reporters Without Borders said political tension and judicial harassment have led to several Caribbean countries receiving low grades on its global Press Freedom Index.
illegal phone monitoring
It said Trinidad and Tobago, which was ranked 44th, has still "not stopped its illegal monitoring of journalists' phone calls and attempts to identify their sources although it promised to stop in 2010.
In Suriname, which dropped nine places to 31st, the organisation said "often stormy relations between President Desi Bouterse and many journalists are unlikely to improve after the passage of an amnesty law for the murders of around 15 government opponents, including five journalists, three decades ago" when Bouterse headed a military government in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community country.
Reporters Without Borders said said the seven-member Organization of Eastern Caribbean States fell eight places to 34th because of "often direct pressure from the political authorities on the news media and the failure to move ahead with the decriminalisation of defamation.