The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) Monday appealed to Caribbean governments to follow through on commitments to repel archaic criminal defamation laws int heir respective countries.
Representatives from the IPI and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), the region’s umbrella media organisation, visited five Caribbean countries in April.
The three week visit to Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago allowed for discussions with representatives of government, law enforcement, media, and civil society as part of the campaign to decriminalise defamation in the Caribbean.
“In four of the five countries that IPI visited, top government leaders expressed agreement that journalists should not face prison for doing their job and that criminal defamation laws do not belong in a modern democracy,” said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie.
“While we would have liked a similarly concrete statement from the government of Guyana, we are encouraged that officials there have decided to review the issue.”
The IPI statement said that in Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar at a news conference announced that a bill partially decriminalising defamation would be sent to Parliament, while in the Dominican Republic, government announced plans to replace the country’s authoritarian-era press law with a modern statute that would include the elimination of all prison sentences for defamation.