Friday 3 April, 2020

Minister pledges to uphold press freedom

Minister of Public Administration and Communications, Marlene McDonald said government is committed to upholding the freedom of the press in Trinidad and Tobago.

In a statement commemorating World Press Freedom Day on May 3, McDonald said government will allow media to do its job unhindered.

"As the Minister with responsibility for Communications I am giving you the commitment that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago supports press freedom and will continue to ensure there is an enabling environment that allows the media to do its job unhindered and unfettered." 

Trinidad and Tobago recently dropped five spots in the World Press Freedom rankings in a 2018 report compiled by Reporters Without Borders. 

The group cited several threats to press freedom including the Cybercrime Bill, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Data Protection Act, and the Broadcast Code – which the organisation notes could have a “chilling effect” on press freedom and free expression online.

There were also a number of legal and physical attacks on journalists in recent times. 

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

The UN says it is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

"The theme for 2018 - 'Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law', highlights the importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom, and gives special attention to the role of an independent judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists."

"At the same time, the theme addresses the role of the media in sustainable development, especially during elections - as a watchdog fostering transparency, accountability and the rule of law. The theme also aims to explore legislative gaps with regard to freedom of expression and information online, and the risks of regulating online speech," the UN said.

Within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the contribution of journalists and media workers is most associated with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 of peace, justice and strong institutions.

"In order to reach this goal, effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels must be developed, and press freedom is essential for this," the UN said. 

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, called on governments to protect journalists.

"On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists. Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth."


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