Freedom of the Press
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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)
The environment for press freedom deteriorated slightly owing to heightened government pressure on the press in the run-up to the country’s general elections and steps taken toward a monopolization of the island’s print media. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government mostly respects these rights in practice. Nevertheless, while the media are free to criticize the government and its policies, the incumbent Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) exerted undue pressure on the media in the run-up to May’s general election, as it has in the past, by characterizing newspaper coverage critical of the government as failing to be objective or lacking balance and fairness. Meanwhile, partisanship increased throughout the media as the election approached, and the state-owned media were accused of unbalanced favorable coverage of the PLP. A particular source of tension between the state and the press was the Tribune newspaper’s February publication of photographs showing the minister of immigration, Shane Gibson, and former model Anna Nicole Smith embracing on a bed. Gibson eventually resigned from his position as minister. Prime Minister Perry Christie denounced the Tribune, accusing it of serving the interests of the opposition party, the Free National Movement (FNM). After winning back the government in the May elections, the FNM promised to regularly report to the public on the state of the country and to uphold a code of ethics for ministers and members of parliament. The attorney general also announced that she expected a draft of a freedom of information bill to be presented to the House of Assembly before the end of the year, although this did not happen. After taking office, the new prime minister, Hubert Ingraham, suspended two journalists from the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas, alleging their involvement with the PLP.
In July, the announcement that three of the country’s four daily newspapers—the Tribune, the Nassau Guardian, and the Freeport News—had agreed to a partnership for sales, purchases, and printing production raised concerns about a looming media monopoly. Although the partners of the merger assured the public that the editorial departments will function independently, critics claimed that the move could only be to the detriment of media independence and diversity in the Bahamas. The state-owned Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas operates a television station and the ZNS Radio Bahamas network. There are also numerous privately owned radio stations. The internet was unrestricted and was accessed by close to 31 percent of the population.