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Thursday, March 30, 2006 

Vienna, 30 March 2006

IPI World Press Freedom Review 2005
THE CARIBBEAN: Oppressive Media Laws - A Looming Epidemic

Haiti once again ranked low on press freedom indexes, with three journalists killed during the year. Another matter of concern in the troubled Caribbean state was the pressure exerted on journalists and media outlets investigating political and gang violence in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Under the guise of wanting to preserve order, the authorities attempted to impede critical coverage of police operations and government policies, journalists claimed.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the introduction of restrictive new media legislation, the continued use of civil and criminal libel laws, and instances of government interference in state-owned media, all encouraged the tendency to self-censor.

In Trinidad and Tobago, and in the Dominican Republic, protests from the media and free press organisations forced the governments to withdraw proposed broadcasting regulations, although the authorities vowed to return to the subject at a later date.

Wesley Gibbings, president of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), warned of "a looming epidemic of oppressive broadcast media laws and regulations currently hovering over the Caribbean region."

The growing popularity of talk-radio also continued to be a major source of controversy during the year, with politicians across the Caribbean accusing the call-in programmes of being "irresponsible."

Speaking on the press freedom situation in the region, Michael Kudlak, IPI's press freedom advisor for the Caribbean, said, "Increasingly, authorities are attempting to use libel laws, broadcasting regulations, and other legal measures to stifle critical coverage, posing a serious threat to freedom of opinion and expression in the Caribbean."

"IPI urges the governments of the Caribbean to uphold everyone's right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right 'to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,' as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Kudlak added.

For further information contact Michael Kudlak, IPI coordinator for the Caribbean, Tel:+431-512 90 11

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