OTROBANDA, Curaçao — Director of the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communications at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Hopeton Dunn, has called on media owners to put more focus on the health and safety of journalists, given the increased risks faced by media practitioners in carrying out their duties.
"We need life, injury and health insurance packages for our practitioners. We need appropriate attire if the practitioners are being exposed to certain risks," he said.
Professor Dunn's call came Friday at the opening of the three-day Caribbean Media Summit at the Renaissance Hotel here. The opening coincided with the observance of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), which was celebrated under the theme 'Safe to Speak: Securing freedom of expression in all media'.
Since the start of the year, approximately 19 journalists have been killed and another 174 imprisoned for carrying out their jobs.
Professor Dunn noted that both traditional media practitioners as well those using new media platforms were being challenged.
"When we speak of safety and freedom, we are speaking about physical safety of the journalists from harm, from injury, from terror, from persecution, from prosecution and from a whole range of endangerment that can be generated by our role as providers of information," he said.
President of the Press Association of Jamaica Jenni Campbell, who was also in attendance, noted that there have been several cases in which journalists have had to employ personal security as a result of threats made against their lives. She said that while Government members have often declared their commitment to defending the rights of journalists, some have been guilty of being the source of threats against the said media practitioners.
"It is equally not unusual for the region's governments to accuse the media of interference and especially, some politicians from political platforms in recent times, especially in the last two years, they have singlled out for grievous tongue-lashing particular practitioners, who they feel have done too good a job at exposing double-speak or wrong information," she said.
WPFD was officially launched during the United Nations Generally Assembly in 1993. Since that time, UNESCO has been the UN agency charged with the mandate to promote the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
More than 60 journalists from 17 countries in the Caribbean attended the regional meeting.