Jamaica | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Jamaica

Jamaica

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

15

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

6

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

6

Jamaica continued to uphold its free media environment in 2007, and in a positive step, the new prime minister created a committee to review restrictive press laws. Although the constitution protects freedom of expression, media rights activists continue to argue that existing criminal libel and defamation laws hinder freedom of expression. In particular, it is believed that media owners discourage investigative reporting of certain subjects because of their fear of libel suits. On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Desmond Richards, president of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), called for reform of the current laws. Bruce Golding, who took office as prime minister in September, stated the new government’s commitment to assess and amend defamation legislation. Golding’s government appointed a committee, including members of both the PAJ and the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ), to make recommendations for legislative changes, with the expectation of submitting a report in February 2008. In the run-up to the September general elections, journalists were frequently harangued as the two main political parties stepped up their campaigning. Both the PAJ, representing media workers, and the MAJ, representing owners, expressed concerns over “inflammatory” statements by the leadership of both parties. There were no reports of physical attacks on the press during the year, although some members of the media do face pressure from gangs and other criminal groups.

Jamaica has active, independent media that are mostly free to express opinions on a diversity of issues as well as criticism of the government. The country has two national daily newspapers and a daily afternoon tabloid. There are a number of national and regional periodicals serving a variety of sectors and interests. The state broadcasting service was largely privatized in 1997, although the Kool FM radio station is still government owned. In March 2006, the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica—funded by state and private-sector contributions—was launched as a radio and television service to replace the state-run Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. The authorities imposed no restrictions on the internet, which was used by close to 40 percent of the population in 2007.