Did you know that, according to Reporters Without Borders, “at the turn of the 21st century, nearly half of the world population still lacks access to free information”? If you live in a country where you can share and receive information without having to worry about being censored, then you’re living in the privileged percentile.
Freedom of the press is an essential cog in the wheel of democracy. It is this freedom that allows information to be transferred via various media, affording diverse viewpoints and opinions an equal platform. A free press is perhaps one of the most crucial indicators of free thought in a society. When divergent groups have equal access to the press, then this increases the likelihood of a balance in the quality and quantity of information shared. Persons consuming this information will not be brainwashed with just one point of view. They will hear points and counterpoints, and (hopefully) come to their own conclusions. In this way, a free press equips and empowers citizens of democratic states to have informed, responsible opinions – and thus, to make informed, responsible decisions.
In 1948, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was crafted, stating, among other things, that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” Despite this declaration, there are many countries where access to information is censored, and where media is heavily regulated by the Government or other interest groups, who manipulate media to disseminate biased and unobjective information.
For many years, the United Nations have been advocating freedom of the press as a freedom governments ought to safeguard as one of the pillars of democracy and sustainable development. Pivotal to the effort to protect press freedom is Reporters Without Borders, a group that defends journalists who are fearlessly and objectively reporting (often unpopular) news. They “provide information about the media freedom situation worldwide”. Every year, they compile a World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates the level of freedom available in 180 countries.
Jamaica’s Ranking in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index
Jamaica ranked eighth in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. According to Reporters Without Borders, there were no deaths of journalists, netizens or media assistants, and the country had advanced two placed since the last survey (they were 10th in 2016). In 2015, Jamaica placed ninth.
According to Reporters Without Borders:
“Jamaica ranks among the countries that most respect freedom of information. The very occasional physical attacks on journalists must be offset against this, but no serious act of violence or threat to media freedom has been reported since February 2009, a month that saw two cases of abuse of authority by the Kingston police. The law decriminalizing defamation passed by the house of representatives in 2013 was a step in the right direction.”
Press Association of Jamaica
The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) was formed in 1943 and has evolved to become a group that represents and defends working professional journalists in Jamaica. It provides, among other things, a code of practice for journalists, outlining the standards by which they are expect to operate. It also provides a space for networking and united efforts to improve journalism from all angles in Jamaica. Their motto states: “A Free Press Oxygen of Democracy”. The group serves as a watchdog entity in the nation for the protection and safeguarding of the Jamaican free press.