As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day 2018 we must pause to examine and appreciate the role played by journalists both here and abroad, in ensuring that countries have fully functional democracies.
A free, fair and independent press is one of the strongest tools to safeguard the process that works to hold public officials accountable for decisions made and policy directives pursued that impacts a country. Through journalism, citizens are given a voice that calls for transparency in the way that their business is being conducted. This voice has been further energized with the advent of social media.
No more do people have to depend solely on traditional media by waiting on the publication of letters to newspaper editors or calling in to a talk show, to express dissatisfaction, instead with the touch of a button on a smart phone there is immediate contact with your elected official.
World Press Freedom Day is also where we pause to honour the lives of journalists all over the world, who have been killed for their unearthing of the truth and love for their profession, these brave men and women relentlessly probed matters of national importance that they believed was in the public’s interest.
Muzzling the press should never be the objective of any administration; in contrast no truer commitment can be seen to open and honest governance than a thriving and free press.
Journalism flourishes in Jamaica. This is witnessed in our recently improved ranking on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. This is a noteworthy achievement. In their 2018 report, France based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, RSF, ranked Jamaica as sixth in the world for press freedom, moving up two places from the eighth place finish in 2017.
In its report, RSF stated that ‘Jamaica ranks among the countries that most respect freedom of information. The law decriminalizing defamation passed by the House of Representatives in 2013 was a step in the right direction.’
Jamaica and by extension journalists should be proud of the country’s standing, as we have outperformed great nations such as the United States of America and Canada having also ranked higher than any other Caribbean nation.
This Government remains committed to the principles of accountability, a process which is maintained through the efforts of the Fourth Estate. Through deepened partnerships with journalists and media owners, this administration will ensure that the country remains the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ for press freedom.
CAPTION: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Honourable Ruel Reid