By Wesley Gibbings, President of ACM
The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) joins with its national affiliates from the Caribbean in observance of World Press Freedom Day 2016.
This year’s theme: “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms” strikes at the heart of the ACM mandate to participate in the shaping of societies committed to greater openness and transparency in the conduct of public affairs through the fostering of respect for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Over many months, for example, the ACM joined with partner organisations all over the world – through the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and on whose Steering Committee we hold a seat – in successfully lobbying for inclusion of the principle of open public access to information in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
That the measure was eventually included as Goal 16.10 signalled to us that this small region is capable of contributing meaningfully to the global conversation on the value of free access to official information in the development process.
Last October, when we met for our Biennial General Assembly in Trinidad, the ACM passed a resolution reminding all Caribbean governments that each country has a “moral, political and legal obligation to its citizens to ensure that these rights are respected.”
We also called on all states to take “prompt and credible steps towards fulfillment of this goal, insofar as it may require the advancing, passage and promulgation of Freedom of Access to Information legislation and regulations.”
World Press Freedom Day provides us with an opportunity to collectively take stock of our status when it comes not only to Goal 16.10 of the SDGs but in the ongoing struggle to achieve much greater buy-in for the belief that press freedom has the potential to be a net contributor to development through better informed citizens benefitting from a free exchange of information, opinion, analysis and debate.
This year’s activities also coincide with observance of the 15th Anniversary of the ACM. Through the years, in collaboration with our national affiliates and focal points in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, we believe we have contributed significantly to shining light on the press freedom challenges of the region, while maintaining a strong focus on bringing media workers in greater communion with each other across national borders and promoting professional development in the practice of journalism.
Our global partnerships have brought the Caribbean to the table on matters related to press freedom and freedom of expression in unprecedented fashion – evidenced by the hosting of the World Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI) in Port of Spain in 2012 and last year’s hosting of the General Meeting and Strategy Conference of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) – two big events that brought hundreds of human rights and press freedom advocates to this region for the first time in our history.
ACM work and research have also gone into publications on covering climate change, protection of the Caribbean Sea, our acclaimed Caribbean Journalists Handbook on Elections, coverage of migration, access to information laws in the Caribbean and we are currently at work, in collaboration with UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), on a handbook containing guidelines for the coverage of children’s issues.
We have, over the years, initiated and hosted subject-specific and general training in 15 Caribbean countries and are currently at work on establishment of an institution offering on-demand training programmes in the regional media.
The ACM is also proud to be a part of the dialogue on free expression frameworks for Latin American and the Caribbean through the IFEX Latin American and Caribbean Alliance which, among other things, took us to the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States in 2013 as part of a successful campaign to maintain the integrity of the office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in the inter-American System.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2016, as the premier representative organisation for Caribbean media workers, we offer our solidarity with regional journalists in the face of challenging times both for the practice of journalism and the viability of the traditional media industry with which we share much common ground.