Freedom of the Press
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Antigua and Barbuda
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respects these rights, the islands drew international attention and criticism after the expulsion of two Caribbean journalists from Antigua in June. Relations between the United Progressive Party (UPP) government and the privately owned media also remained strained throughout the year. In November, the government announced forthcoming legislation to remedy what it labelled “irresponsible media” and proposed a Broadcasting Law to establish standards of conduct to govern both print and electronic media. The Antigua and Barbuda Media Congress (ABMC) expressed its concerns that the planned legislation would result in media censorship. The case against ZDK Radio announcer James “Tanny” Rose finally came before the courts in June and was promptly dismissed. Rose had been arrested in 2005 for “misbehavior in public office” and faced criminal charges in 2006 in relation to his job as chief information officer of the state-owned radio and television authority under the previous government in 1994.
While private print media offer a diversity of opinion, government officials occasionally harass local and foreign journalists who openly criticize the government. In June, the detention and expulsion of two prominent Caribbean journalists brought a storm of protest at home and across the region. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer claimed that Vernon Khelawan, a Trinidadian, and Lennox Linton, a Dominican, had failed to comply with immigration laws and lacked necessary work permits. Protests centered on the government’s direct violation of the Caribbean Community and Common Market, a regional agreement that guarantees media workers free movement within the region. Both the ABMC and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers expressed grave concerns over this attack on press freedom.
The islands have 2 daily newspapers, 1 biweekly paper, and more than 10 radio stations, including the state-owned Antigua and Barbuda Network (ABN), the UPP’s Crusader Radio, the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP)’s ZDK Liberty Radio International, and the independent Observer Radio. ABN runs the islands’ only freely available television service, and there is one cable television company. Most private media outlets are owned by firms affiliated with either the current government or its predecessor. The family of Lester Bird, the former prime minister and leader of the opposition ALP, maintains a high concentration of ownership in both radio and cable television. There are no government restrictions on the internet, which was accessed by over 44 percent of the population in 2007.