Press Association of Jamaica Pleased with Press Freedom Ranking but Still Vigilant
Statement from PAJ President Dionne Jackson-Miller
April 26, 2018: The Press Association of Jamaica is pleased with Jamaica's continued good showing on the annual World Press Freedom Index, published by press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.
Jamaica moved up two places from eighth last year, to sixth this year out of 180 countries.
In its assessment, Reporters Without Borders stated that: "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 decriminalizing defamation passed by the House of Representatives in 2013 was a step in the right direction."
PAJ President, Dionne Jackson Miller, says "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."
"We continue to be concerned about the potential impact of the Data Protection Act on journalism in Jamaica. The Act is now being examined by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament. We have been calling for the practice of journalism to be completely exempted from the provisions of the Act," says Jackson Miller.
"Even as we celebrate our improved ranking, we acknowledge the threats our colleagues face elsewhere, including physical attacks, and verbal abuse from political leaders," says Jackson Miller.
The PAJ President notes that "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 stated that "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."
The PAJ says it will continue to add its voice to calls from advocates around the world for the protection of journalists.
Dionne Jackson Miller
Photo from Jamaica Observer