Freedom of the Press
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Trinidad and Tobago
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)
Freedom of the press is enshrined in the constitution, and is usually respected by the government. While freedom of information legislation is in place, the government has been criticized for gradually narrowing the categories of public information accessible under the law. The use of libel laws by government officials to restrict media operations has been a problem in previous years, as has the discriminatory allocation of broadcasting licenses. Another remaining contentious issue in 2007 was the role of authorities’ interference in the media sphere in the context of the country’s simmering ethnic tensions between the African and East Indian communities. In January, the ruling People’s National Movement, which is generally supported by Afro-Trinidadians, was heavily criticized for state actions taken against television operator and commentator Inshan Ishmael. Owner of the Islamic Broadcasting Network, Ishmael emerged as one of the leaders of a protest movement that in January proposed a shutdown of businesses and schools as a way of registering public dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to deal with soaring crime rates. In the lead-up to the protest, the state-run Trinidad and Tobago Telecommunications Authority blocked the broadcast of Ishmael’s television program. Then, on January 24, the day before the work stoppage, Ishmael was arrested by armed police. He was later charged under the Antiterrorism Law. The leader of the recently formed political party Congress of the People, Wilson Dookeran, denounced the arrest as a “deliberate move to stifle freedom of the media.” In March, the charges against Ishmael were dropped.
There are three daily newspapers—Trinidad and Tobago Express, Newsday, and the Trinidad Guardian—and three political weeklies. Four television stations are in operation, including the state-owned CNMG TV, and a new cable station, WIN TV, was launched in May. In November, the British Broadcasting Corporation joined an already crowded radio field—there are 36 stations—when it launched its FM frequency Caribbean service. There were no government restrictions on the internet, which was accessed by 12 percent of the population in 2007.