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'Erosion of press freedom can be insidious', warns PAJ

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Press Association of Jamaica says while Jamaica's continued good showing on the annual World Press Freedom Index is pleasing, it is still concerned about the potential impact of the Data Protection Act on journalism in the country.

The index, published by press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, places Jamaica sixth out of 180 countries, a move two places up from the country's number-eight ranking last year.

“While we are happy about Jamaica's improved ranking, we cannot relax. We must be vigilant as the erosion of press freedom can be insidious,” said PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller in a release today.

As such, she said the press association has been calling for the practice of journalism to be completely exempted from the provisions of the Data Protection Act, which is currently before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.

In its assessment, Reporters Without Borders said: “Jamaica ranks among the countries that most respect freedom of information. The very occasional physical attacks on journalists must be offset against this, but no serious act of violence or threat to media freedom has been reported since February 2009, a month that saw two cases of abuse of authority by the Kingston police. The law decriminalising defamation passed by the House of Representatives in 2013 was a step in the right direction.”

Jackson Miller said even as the PAJ celebrates Jamaica's improved ranking, it acknowledges the threats journalists face elsewhere, including physical attacks, and verbal abuse from political leaders.

“We stand in solidarity with our colleagues around the world, many of whom work in oppressive and dangerous conditions, like the Philippines where the President has warned reporters that they are not exempted from assassination.”

In its overall assessment of the state of press freedom as outlined in the 2018 index, Reporters Without Borders stated that there is “growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.”

The report said: “The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as: enemies of the people.”

In Mexico, which ranked 147th, 11 journalists were killed last year, with RSF calling the country “the world's second deadliest country for journalists in 2017”.

Reporters without Borders has described Turkey as the “world's biggest prison for professional journalists”.

PAJ said it will continue to add its voice to calls from advocates around the world for the protection of journalists.

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