International Press Institute Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie will deliver the keynote address at a World Press Freedom Day event taking place in Kingston, Jamaica on May 2-3.
The event organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cooperation with IPI, the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) and other groups, will focus on the need to promote freedom of expression and free, pluralistic and independent media as part of the post-2015 UN Development Agenda.Studies carried out over the past decade as part of the UN Millennium Development Goal’s process have shown that a free media and access to information are core tools in the achievement of the other development goals. Contributors to IPI’s manual for journalists on how to cover human development and hold governments accountable, repeatedly stress the value of journalism in ensuring compliance with development commitments.The World Press Freedom Day in the Caribbean 2014 event will be held at Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
To emphasise the significance of covering development, Bethel McKenzie will also lead a day-long workshop focusing on covering health reporting; while IPI Executive Board Member Martha M. Steffens, a business and financial reporting professor at the University of Missouri in the United States, will focus on covering development aid. ACM member Julius Gittens, a veteran reporter from Barbados, will participate in the workshop with a presentation on environmental reporting.
IPI’s decision to celebrate World Press Freedom Day in Kingston was guided by Jamaica’s recent abolishment of criminal defamation laws, a development that IPI considers an important achievement for press freedom in the island country and in the region.
“We are very proud of Jamaica’s leadership on the issue of repealing criminal defamation and the media’s commitment in reporting accurately and thoroughly on development issues,” said Bethel McKenzie. “On this recognition of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3 each year, IPI continues to call on governments worldwide to secure the safety of journalists and to stop the climate of impunity afforded to their attackers. We also call on the repeal of criminal defamation laws globally and the implementation of Access to Information laws.”
So far, only the islands of Jamaica and Grenada in the Caribbean have fully decriminalised libel and defamation, therefore taking steps to meet the recommendation of both the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, and Organisation of American States’ special rapporteur for freedom of expression, Catalina Botero.
To add insight on this important issue and provide examples of best regional practices in this field, the event also will feature a panel discussion on criminal defamation.
Since 2012, IPI in cooperation with its Caribbean partner, ACM, have been conducting a campaign to abolish criminal defamation in the Caribbean. The IPI Campaign follows the 2012 endorsement by the IPI General Assembly and other regional and international groups of the IPI Declaration of Port of Spain, which calls for the abolition of ‘insult laws’ and criminal defamation legislation in the Caribbean, and for the support of strong, free and independent media.