Saturday 4 April, 2020

T&T drops 5 spots in World Press Freedom ranking

Despite a 10 spot jump on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Trinidad and Tobago has slipped to 39th place – a five place drop from its 2017 ranking.

Compiled by annually by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries, including the level of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship. 

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The legal framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information is also measured. Government policy, however, is not evaluated.

The scores and indicators measure constraints and violations, so the higher the figure, the worse the situation.

In the RSF’s 2018 evaluation, Trinidad and Tobago’s drop in score was due in large part to several pieces of legislation before the Parliament, namely 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, if adopted.

The controversial Libel and Defamation Act was also highlighted as problematic, because in spite of a 2014 amendment “malicious defamatory libel known to be false” is still punishable by up to two years in prison and also carries a fine.

One incident that also factored into T&T’s lower score was the physical attack on Guardian photojournalist Kristian de Silva as he attempted to take photos at the A&V Drilling Company’s compound for coverage on the private oil company’s involvement in the fake oil scandal at Petrotrin.

At least two other media personnel were also assaulted during coverage of the story.

The RSF noted, however, that this was a rare example of violence against journalists unseen in the country in recent years.

Meanwhile, this year’s index reflects growing animosity towards journalists.

Globally, hostility towards the media was found to be openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.

Overall rankings

Norway is first for the second year running, followed by Sweden in second place.

Undermined by a case threatening the confidentiality of a journalist’s sources, Finland is down one spot to fourth place, surrendering its third place to the Netherlands.

Jamaica is in sixth place – a two-spot improvement from its eighth place ranking in 2017.

The United Kingdom is at 40th place, while the United States is five spots behind at 45th.

North Korea remains in last place at 180.

 

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