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MATT president: Not surprised by T&T’s press freedom index
President of the Media Association of T&T Suzanne Sheppard said yesterday she was not surprised by T&T’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index. The 2013 edition of the index, which is compiled by international NGO Reporters Without Borders, ranks T&T 44 out of 179 countries. The index is published annually and measures the degree of freedom media workers are afforded in each country.
On the 2011-2012 index, T&T dropped 20 places— from 30th to 50th—owing to reports of the Government spying on journalists. This year’s report said: “T&T still has not stopped its illegal monitoring of journalists’ phone calls and attempts to identify their sources, although it promised to stop in 2010.”
Sheppard added: “The issues that have confronted T&T media in the last year and more have been well-documented. In spite of promises and commitments made, the day-to-day experience doesn’t suggest that we’ve made any real progress in the area of press freedom.
“Our low ranking on this index should be a motivating factor for all of us to do better. All of the stakeholders need to ensure that conditions are created and maintained for a free and vibrant press in T&T. We have all the building blocks. We just need the political and social will to make it a reality.” Sheppard said the situation would hopefully change once the Government lived up to its promises, such as enacting legislation to end criminal libel.
In May, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the Government would work on amending the Libel and Defamation Act to prevent journalists from being charged with criminal libel. The announcement came after a meeting with the International Press Institute (IPI), the Association of Caribbean Media Workers and the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association.
In 2012, the IPI launched a campaign urging Caribbean governments to abolish criminal defamation laws. Sheppard said the Government had begun to pay more attention to campaigns such as those. “The IPI campaign for the abolition of criminal libel is what has led to the promise of legislation for reform. I think just the activity, just keeping it on the front burner, has done a lot and that is what these surveys and studies are supposed to do,” she added.
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