Opposition Spokesperson on Information, Senator Donna Scott Mottley, says the Government must take full responsibility for Jamaica’s rapid decline in the Annual Press Freedom Index, as the poor rating is largely due to a series of unfinished business in the Government’s Information portfolio.
The Government is lagging with amendments to the Criminal Justice Administration Act to eliminate penalties for photojournalists operating outside Courthouses, the repeal of the Official Secrets Act, delayed Digital Broadcasting switchover, as well as the refusal of many state agencies to honour requests under the Access to Information Act (ATI). These are contributory factors to Jamaica falling twenty places in the Press Freedom ranking.
In a statement, Senator Scott Mottley said not enough attention was being paid to information policy development and implementation, leaving the Minister to act as a glorified public relations officer. Media Houses have specifically complained about difficulties in getting information using the ATI process, as they were being stonewalled by several Ministries and Agencies.
She called for more emphasis to be placed on information policy development and implementation of outstanding decisions so Jamaicans may benefit from laws passed to facilitate transparency, access to non-exempt government documents and move away from the culture of secrecy.
Senator Scott Mottley disputed the reasons given by Information Minister, Robert Morgan as he sought to downplay the seriousness of the fall in Jamaica’s world ranking.
According to the Minister, “Because of the change in methodology, care should be taken when comparing pre and post-2021 rankings and scores.” However, Senator Scott Mottley said the report clearly stated that the method was changed in 2021, and Jamaica achieved a rank of twelve in 2022, which fell to thirty-two in 2023.
The Opposition Spokesperson said the Minister should, therefore, provide Jamaica with a more truthful and considered reason to explain this international black eye.
The Opposition also reiterated its commitment to defending press freedom and protecting the rights of journalists in Jamaica. “We believe that a free and independent press is essential to the well-being of our society and is necessary for a vibrant democracy,” she said.